How to watch the transit of Mercury

Image: Transit of Mercury
A multiple-exposure photo shows Mercury as a speck making its way across the sun. (Credit: NASA)

For the first time in a decade, we Earthlings can watch the planet Mercury’s black speck pass across the sun on Monday – even in Seattle, where seeing the sun can be an iffy proposition. Just make sure you see it safely.

“This is one of the very rare opportunities to see the parts of the solar system in motion,” said Stephanie Anderson, president of the Seattle Astronomical Society. “It doesn’t happen very often, so when you get an opportunity, take it.”

The event begins at 4:12 a.m. PT, when the edge of our solar system’s closest-in planet appears to touch the sun’s disk. That’s before dawn for West Coasters, so Seattleites will have to wait until sunrise at 5:40 a.m., when the transit is in progress.

Anderson and other skywatchers plan to be ready at Snoqualmie Point Park, just off Interstate 90 at Exit 27, for a viewing party sponsored by the astronomical society. Members will set up telescopes with solar-safe filter for a look-see. Some of the telescopes will be equipped with hydrogen-alpha filters that highlight solar prominences.

The forecast for Monday morning calls for partly cloudy skies over Seattle, but if the weather is favorable, the party could go on until Mercury completes its transit at 11:42 a.m. PT. Keep an eye on the Seattle Astronomical Society’s website for updates.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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