Monday, Mercury passes the Sun, a rare phenomenon that will not happen again until 2032



ASTRONOMY – At your telescopes! Mercury, the smallest planet in the Solar System, will be interposed between our planet and the Sun. A rare phenomenon that occurs only a dozen times a century. The last time was in 2016 and the next is scheduled for 2032.

Seen from Earth, the show promises to be moving. On Monday, November 11, Mercury, the smallest planet in the Solar System, will pass in front of the Sun. The star, which will detach itself from the luminous disc of our star, will not then be bigger than a small black ball. What better to realize the impressive scale ratio between the two celestial bodies, as well as the dimensions of our planet, only 2.6 times larger than Mercury.

This rare astronomical phenomenon, which will not happen again until 2032, will be visible everywhere on Earth where the Sun will be raised. It will be observable in its entirety in eastern North America, South America, the far west of Africa, Australia and Asia (except the west). In other parts of the world, such as ours in Europe, this will only be partially visible. This will not alter the beauty of the show.

At what time do you admire this event?

In metropolitan France, the phenomenon will begin at 1:15 pm. It will not be visible in its entirety, because the Sun will set before the end of the passage. But it can however be observed until between 16h48 and 17h32, according to the regions. In some overseas departments and territories, such as Guadeloupe, Guyana or Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, residents will be able to admire the show in its entirety.

To simplify your life, the Institute of celestial mechanics and calculating ephemeris (IMCCE), in charge of the development and publication of official ephemeris for France, has drawn up a table with timetables (in local time) of the passage Mercury according to the cities.

How to observe it safely?

The Sun is so bright, and Mercury so small on the solar disk, that it will be impossible to distinguish the planet with eclipse glasses. Its observation is therefore conditioned to the use of an astronomical telescope or a telescope equipped with a protective filter. It must be provided with a sunscreen density of 5 type "mylar", to avoid any irreversible ophthalmic accident.

But, according to the Paris Observatory, the best method to witness the transit of Mercury without risk is that of an observation by projection on a screen using a solarscope. This instrument, available in specialized shops (from 65 euros), allows to realize the impressive scale ratio between the two stars (0.7 mm for Mercury, against 12 cm for the Sun).

Some precautions: The opportunity to recall, although it may seem obvious, that it is important to never look at the sun without protection, at the risk of running the risk of serious eye damage. It is therefore not possible to observe the passage of Mercury with eclipse glasses. Any other way, such as sunglasses for example, is obviously to proscribe.

On video

EXPLORE – Mercury, planet of extremes

An event retransmitted on the Internet

In Île-de-France, those who do not have adequate equipment will be able to go to the Meudon site of the Paris Observatory. Mobile telescopes, equipped with special filters, will be available to the public to allow Parisians to admire the show in the best conditions. In the regions, events are also planned. For more information, contact the astronomy club of your department or visit the website of the French Association of Astronomy (AFA).

Those who want to enjoy, quiet from their couch, can also do it via a simple Internet connection. On D-day, subject to favorable weather conditions, the event will be filmed from the Pic du Chateau-Renard Observatory in Saint-Veran (Hautes-Alpes), located at an altitude of 2,936 meters, and retransmitted with a slight delay. on the website of the Observatoire de Paris.

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