tech2 News StaffNov 11, 2019 16:33:29 IST
The solar system’s smallest, the innermost planet, Mercury, is putting on a rare celestial show today. It will pass directly between Earth and the Sun at 6.05 pm IST.
The event will last five and a half hours and it is only visible in Eastern US, Canada and all of Central and South America. The rest of North America, Europe and Africa will only be able to view part of the action. However, Asia and Australia will miss the event altogether. But worry not, you can still watch it online.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite (SDO) will provide an almost real-time view of the transit. The satellite keeps a constant eye on the Sun to study the changes which put it in the front row for many eclipses and transits. You can watch it here.
Mercury is 4,800 kilometres in diameter, compared with the Sun’s 1.4 million kilometres. Unlike its 2016 transit, Mercury will score a near bull’s-eye this time, passing practically dead centre in front of our star.
The planet will cut a diagonal path left to right across the sun on Monday, entering at the bottom left (around the eight-hour mark on a clock) and exiting top right (around the two-hour mark). Although the trek will appear slow, Mercury will zoom across the Sun at roughly 2,41,000 kmph.
Mercury’s next transit isn’t until 2032, and North America won’t get another viewing opportunity until 2049. Earthlings get treated to just 13 or 14 Mercury transits a century.
If you have the chance to watch it in person, here are a few precautions to take while watching the transit. Looking at the Sun directly is never a good idea and Mercury is too small to be seen with the unaided eye. You can use a telescope with proper solar filters. However, using a regular telescope with solar viewing glasses is not advisable.
Scientists will use the transit to fine-tune telescopes, especially those in space that cannot be adjusted by hand, according to Young. It’s this kind of transit that allows scientists to discover alien worlds. Periodic, fleeting dips of starlight indicate an orbiting planet.
“Transits are a visible demonstration of how the planets move around the Sun, and everyone with access to the right equipment should take a look,” Mike Cruise, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said in a statement from England.
With inputs from The Associated Press.
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