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Mercury Visible to Most Monday         11/11 06:56

   CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Mercury is putting on a rare celestial show 
next week, parading across the sun in view of most of the world.

   The solar system's smallest, innermost planet will resemble a tiny black dot 
Monday as it passes directly between Earth and the sun. It begins at 7:35 a.m. 
EST.

   The entire 5 -hour event will be visible, weather permitting, in the eastern 
U.S. and Canada, and all Central and South America. The rest of North America, 
Europe and Africa will catch part of the action. Asia and Australia will miss 
out.

   Unlike its 2016 transit, Mercury will score a near bull's-eye this time, 
passing practically dead center in front of our star.

   Mercury's next transit isn't until 2032, and North America won't get another 
viewing opportunity until 2049. Earthlings get treated to just 13 or 14 Mercury 
transits a century.

   You'll need proper eye protection for Monday's spectacle: Telescopes or 
binoculars with solar filters are recommended. There's no harm in pulling out 
the eclipse glasses from the total solar eclipse across the U.S. two years ago, 
but it would take "exceptional vision" to spot minuscule Mercury, said NASA 
solar astrophysicist Alex Young.

   Mercury is 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) in diameter, compared with the 
sun's 864,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers.)

   During its 2012 transit of the sun, larger and closer Venus was barely 
detectable by Young with his solar-viewing glasses.

   "That's really close to the limit of what you can see," he said earlier this 
week. "So Mercury's going to probably be too small."

   Venus transits are much rarer. The next one isn't until 2117. 

   Mercury will cut a diagonal path left to right across the sun on Monday, 
entering at bottom left (around the 8 hour mark on a clock) and exiting top 
right (around the 2 hour mark).

   Although the trek will appear slow, Mercury will zoom across the sun at 
roughly 150,000 mph (241,000 kph).

   NASA will broadcast the transit as seen from the orbiting Solar Dynamics 
Observatory, with only a brief lag. Scientists will use the transit to 
fine-tune telescopes, especially those in space that cannot be adjusted by 
hand, according to Young.

   It's this kind of transit that allows scientists to discover alien worlds. 
Periodic, fleeting dips of starlight indicate an orbiting planet.

   "Transits are a visible demonstration of how the planets move around the 
sun, and everyone with access to the right equipment should take a look," Mike 
Cruise, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said in a statement from 
England.


(KR)

 
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