Transit of Mercury Nov 11, 2019

On November 11th, 2019 Mercury will transit the Sun. While transits of Mercury are not rare, they are not all that common either. The last transit was a few years ago in May of 2016. On average there are fourteen transits of Mercury each century or one every seven years. If you wish to observe one the situation is much better than transits of Venus which occur in pairs over a century apart.

Mercury Transit 9May2016
Mercury transiting the Sun on May 9, 2016. Celestron C8 and Canon 6D at f/10.

This particular transit will favor observers in Europe, South America, and the eastern seaboard of North America where the entire transit will be visible. Unfortunately for observers in the islands only the final hour and a half of the transit will be visible having begun well before local dawn. Sunrise will occur around 06:28 for the island of Hawaiʻi, with the transit ending at 08:04 in the morning when the Sun will be 20° above the horizon.

The table below gives the transit geocentric UT and offset HST times. As our line of sight is shifted slightly from Hawaii there is a slight offset in the timing from our vantage point.

Mercury Transit Nov 11th, 2019
Event Universal TimeHawaii Standard TimePosition Angle
Contact I 12:35:27UT109.8°
Contact II 12:37:08UT109.8°
Midpoint 15:19:48UT 24.3°
Contact III18:02:33UT08:03:13HST298.8°
Contact IV 18:04:14UT08:04:54HST298.7°
Data from Fred Espenak’s Eclipsewise Website

First contact is simply the first moment that the disk of Mercury begins to impinge on the disk of the Sun. Second contact will be the moment when Mercury is entirely in front of the Sun. Third and fourth contacts are a reverse of first and second with fourth contact as the end of the event.

Observing a planetary transit of the Sun requires proper eye protection. If you can not look safely, do not look! The Sun can cause permanent eye damage if viewed without proper protection.

As Mercury is quite small some magnification will be useful in observing this event, a telescope or binoculars with a solar filter. A pinhole camera can be made out of things lying around in your kitchen that provides a very good image. Read my Guide to Safe Solar Viewing for a lot more information on viewing the Sun safely.

The next transit of Mercury will occur November 13, 2032 at 08:54UT (mid-transit).

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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