Mercury Will Cross the Face of the Sun in a Rare Transit. Here's How to Watch.
The mercury in your thermometer might be dropping, but the Mercury in the sky is rising. (A little sorry about that one.) More accurately, it's about to transit the Sun.
On Monday, November 11, Mercury will cross the face of the sun, at least from our vantage point, for the first time since 2016. This is a relatively rare sighting. From the view on Earth, only Venus and Mercury are capable of passing the face of the Sun. Venus does it in a pair of transits with more than a century separating each pair, according to Fred Espenak of EclipseWise. Mercury makes the trek just 13 times every 100 years.
Moreover, the transit of Mercury isn't visible from every place on Earth. Much like a solar or lunar eclipse, there are select regions that have a view of the event. This time, the US is going to be able to see it, with the exception of the majority of Alaska. Plus, transits of the Sun occur during the day so you don't need to stay up late or set a ridiculously early alarm. Take that meteor showers and northern lights!
The show will last for about five and a half hours. That's roughly 7:35am EST to 1:04pm. Mercury will appear as a tiny circle trekking across the brightness of the Sun. That early start means that the transit will already be in progress at sunrise for states west of Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and most of Louisiana.
To view the event, you're going to need a telescope that has a solar filter. Just like an eclipse -- or, really, anytime -- you should not stare at the sun with your naked eyes. Additionally, Mercury is small enough that just staring at the sun with your leftover eclipse glasses isn't going to do the trick.
If you're an amateur astronomer, maybe you've got the tools to spot Mercury all by yourself. If not, astronomy clubs and observatories will likely be hosting viewing parties that will give you a chance to see the event yourself.