Transit of Mercury

Monday, November 11, 2019

On Monday, Nov. 11, the planet Mercury will pass in front of the sun, an event that will not be visible in North America again until 2049.

Mercury is so small that a transit can only be seen through a telescope but to prevent serious eye damage it is extremely important to view it only using properly designed filters. There is no time during a transit when it is safe to look at the sun directly, and Mercury is too small to be seen through eclipse glasses. Weather permitting, UMass astronomers invite the public to the campus's Sunwheel, where they plan to set up telescopes to safely observe Mercury during its transit progress between 7:36 a.m. to 1:04 p.m., while also explaining what's happening. During this rare event, the planet will appear as a tiny black dot crossing the face of the sun for several hours.

photo of Mercury timelapse of Mercury crossing face of Sun
(Image: © NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein)

image of sunwheel in autumn

(Image: Photo by UMass Amherst Astronomer Judy Young)