Transit of Mercury: How to enjoy Monday's sky display

James Marshall
November 8, 2019

The Transit of the planet mercury across the Sun's disk is a unique celestial event, and University of Karachi is making it possible to observe it.

The transit of Mercury isn't like a solar eclipse. These are early morning events that start at 7:45 a.m. and run until 11 a.m. In contrast, transits of Venus occur in pairs, with more than a century separating each pair. This technique, known as planetary transits, is a leading method of extra-solar planet detection. If you're on the correct side of the Earth to see this event (as we are in Tennessee), and have proper solar filters on your telescope, then you'll see a tiny dot slowly travel across the face of the sun. For observers in the western United States of America, the transit will already be underway when the sun rises locally at 6:43 a.m.

Transit of Mercury will last for few minutes in Karachi. Measuring just about 0.5% of the Sun's diameter, the planet will only be visible through powerful telescopes with a minimum magnification of 50x. It's expected to take almost five hours for the planet to make its way across, so if you don't get there right at 6:30, you won't miss anything.

The next transit of Mercury will not be visible until 2032. Astronomers used transits to gain a better understanding of the size of the planets and their distance from Earth. It will be possible to observe it with a telescope or binoculars, but on the condition that your instruments are equipped with sunscreens provided for this objective so as not to damage your sight.

Professor Mike Cruise, president of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), said: "This is a rare event, and we'll have to wait 13 years until it happens again".

A viewing will take place at the John Abbott College Oval from 7:30 a.m.to 1 p.m. UVI will also have several solar telescopes set up outside the library as well as other devices to safely view the transit, according to David Morris, Ph.D. Workshops will be available on Nov. 25 and 26 from 9 a.m.to noon, as well as extended public hours on Wednesday, Nov. 27 from 10 a.m.to 5 p.m. Registration begins Monday, Nov. 11. This is an after-school science team from students grades 3-6.

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