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Monday, November 11, 2019

Rare Transit of Mercury, November 11, 2019

A rare transit of Mercury will occur on November 11. The closest planet to the sun will be seen crossing the sun as a small black dot, the planet seen in silhouette, as it passes from the evening sky into the morning sky.

In this composite image provided by NASA, the planet Mercury passes directly between the sun and Earth on May 9, 2016 in a transit which lasted seven-and-a-half-hours. On Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, Mercury will make another transit, visible from the eastern U.S. and Canada, and all Central and South America. The rest of North America, Europe and Africa will catch part of the action. Asia and Australia will miss out. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein via AP

In Israel the transit will begin at 2:35pm IST. In the US the transit will begin at 7:35am EST. The entire transit will last 5 1/2 hours, so the sun will set in Israel as the transit is still in progress. The next transit isn't until 2032 and North America won't see another transit until 2049. There are only 13 or 14 Mercury transits visible from earth per century.

This should make for some wonderful photo opportunities, especially as the sun sets, IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT. You should never stare at the sun with your naked eye without proper solar filters. You can damage your sight permanently. If you have solar eclipse gasses you can put them on to try viewing the transit with your naked eye, but Mercury will be a very tiny dot and probably not visible without optical aid.  Don't put binoculars up to your eyes with solar filter glasses on. The sun will melt them instantly and shine into your eye. All proper solar filters need to be in front of the main optics to block the light of the sun from entering. The same goes for your cameras. Without a proper solar filter in front of your lens you will burn out the camera's sensor. It will take a minimum of a 300mm lens to show the silhouette of Mercury against the sun. Bigger is better. As the sun sets with Mercury in transit it should make for some special photos from Machtesh Ramon.

Astronomy Israel (me) is setting up solar telescopes for viewing at Har Gamal in Mitzpe Ramon. We should be out by 3:00pm. Just put "Har Gamal Mitzpe Ramon" in Google Maps or Waze to find us. No charge for this event. You are welcome to join us for a star tour at 9:30pm Monday night. To get all information and book a tour click:

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