On November 11, 2019, we’ll be witness to a rare phenomenon: the transit of the planet Mercury in front of the Sun.
The planet Mercury’s orbit is closer to the Sun than the Earth’s, and it sometimes happens that Mercury comes between the Sun and our planet, a bit the way the Moon does during a solar eclipse. However, Mercury is too far from us and too small in appearance to completely hide the Sun. What we see instead is a small black disk passing in front of the Sun. Depending on circumstances, the phenomenon can last for several hours.
We can observe 13 or 14 transits per century of the planet Mercury. The last one goes back to 2016. The transits of Venus, on the other hand, are much rarer and come in pairs: that is, a first transit is followed by a second one eight years later – but such events take place only every 105 or 121 years.
The transit on November 11
The next transit of Mercury will take place on Monday, November 11, 2019. It will be completely visible for observers in Québec. In Montréal, the little planet will begin to appear in front of the Sun at 7:36:02 EST. At that moment, the Sun will be quite low, barely 7 degrees above the southeast horizon. Mercury will take 5 hours and 26 minutes to pass across the solar disc. The phenomenon will end at 13:02:41. To enjoy the spectacle, you have to be extremely careful and take the same precautions you do when observing an eclipse of the Sun.
Don’t miss this transit of Mercury, because the next one visible from Québec won’t be happening until May 7, 2049.
To wind up, here’s an amusing statistic: it will be possible to see the transits of Mercury and Venus simultaneously. This is such an uncommon event that the next one won’t be taking place until the year 69,163!
For more information on the upcoming transit of Mercury, we invite you to consult the website of the Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan at this address:
A reminder that you must never look at the Sun without an adequate filter: doing so involves the risk of serious and irreversible harm to your eyes.