Image Credit & Copyright: ESA/NASA/SOHO of the 2006 Mercury transit.
Don’t feel like waiting until 2117 until the next transit of Venus? Well I can’t help ya there but on Monday, May 9, 2016 the first planet, Mercury (Apollo or Hermes depending where you are) will cross the face of the Sun for the first time since November 8, 2006. After this event the next Mercury transit will take place on November 11, 2019. TIMES: I’ll refer you to the “Time and Date” links below for times. They have a great system where you type in your city and it will give you all times involved in your time zone.
The entire transit should last about seven and a half hours so unless you’re imaging the entire transit this isn’t a “hurry up and look” event. Clear skies assumed; there are still a couple catches you need to know about here.
First of all, use protection (solar telescopes, solar filters, solar glasses etc.). If you look at the Sun with anything other than something designed to look at the Sun you will likely suffer some sort of eye damage and that’s obviously not worth it for anyone. I actually don’t know of anyone personally that’s been dumb enough to attempt it so hopefully the absurd amount of warnings that we issue for events like these are actually paying off. Or that many of us are actually using common sense.
Secondly, Mercury is small, only about 1/160 of the apparent diameter of the Sun which means Mercury will appear smaller than your average sunspot. What else does that mean? You will likely need magnification to observe it so standard solar glasses won’t cut it. If you have some, by all means give it a shot but I just don’t think it will deliver any quality views.
So why did I call Mercury, Apollo and Hermes above? Well as you may already know, the inferior planets of Mercury and Venus sometimes act as morning or evening stars and in ancient times they had individual names. Mercury was Apollo when it acted as a morning star and Hermes when it acted as an evening star. While Venus as the morning star was named Phosphorus and when it was an evening star its name was Hesperus. That stuck until Pythagoras realized Phosphorus and Hesperus were the same entity around 5th Century B.C. Some of us, out of a fun respect for history still lovingly use those names.
Time and Date page for this event: http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/transit/2016-may-9
Time and Date (Boston): http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/boston
Fred Espenak’s Eclipse Wise page for this event: http://eclipsewise.com/oh/tm2016.html
Naked Eye Planets page for this event: http://www.nakedeyeplanets.com/mercury-transit-2016.htm
NASA’s catalog of Mercury transits: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/transit/catalog/MercuryCatalog.html
In The Sky page for this event: https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20160509_12_100