WEB DESK: Astronomers are in for a rare treat next week when the planet Mercury passes across the face of the Sun.
This rare celestial event only happens about 13 times per century, so you won’t get another chance to see it until 2032 – 13 years from now.
The transit of Mercury happens because it is one of only two planets in our solar system that orbit the sun closer than Earth – the other one being Venus.
On most of its orbits, Mercury passes above or below the Sun as seen from Earth.
Occasionally, however, the orbits of Earth and Mercury line up in such a way that Mercury passes directly between the Earth and the Sun.
When this happens, Mercury is visible from Earth as a tiny dot – about 0.5 per cent of the diameter of the sun itself.
‘The sky will put on a stellar show on November 11, 2019, as Mercury crosses in front of the Sun,’ said NASA.
‘From our perspective on Earth, we can only ever see Mercury and Venus cross in front of, or transit, the Sun, so it’s a rare event you won’t want to miss!’
With the right safety equipment, viewers nearly everywhere on Earth will be able to see the tiny dark spot moving slowly across the disk of the Sun.
The transit starts at 11:35 GMT (04:35 PST) on Monday, November 11, and will last for about 5.5 hours, so there will be plenty of time to catch the show.
Viewers in certain areas, such as the West Coast of the United States, will not be able to see it until the Sun is visible in the sky.
At approximately 15:20 GMT (08.20 PST), Mercury will be as close as it is going to get to the centre of the Sun.
The transit will still be underway as the sun sets in the UK an hour later.