Thursday , April 15 2021

Mercury Transit 2019: How a Spacecraft Fleet Will Watch the Rare Event from Space –,

On Monday (Nov. 11), Mercury will move across the sun’s face and several spacecraft will have their sights set on the rare event.

Spacecraft have captured incredible images of past Mercury transits, and this year promises some exciting observations from space. NASA’sSolar Dynamics Observatory(SDO) andSolar & Heliospheric Observatory(SOHO) will be watching the sun during Mercury’s roughly 5.5-hour trip, and a Japanese mission may also provide a close-up glimpse.

On Earth, skygazers in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and even Antarctica can view the event using safe ISO- certifiedprotective solar-viewing gear– weather permitting. Those in Alaska, the Pacific and Asia won’t catch the event, because the sun will be below the horizon when Mercury passes in front of the star like a traveling blemish. Fortunately, the teams behind several space missions will be sharing unobstructed views of Mercury’s transit.

Related:Mercury Transit : Where and How to See It on Nov. 11

This image of the Mercury transit's final minutes was taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on May 9, 2016, with its Atmospheric Imaging Assembly.

This image of the Mercury transit’s final minutes was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on May 9, 2016, with its Atmospheric Imaging Assembly.

(Image credit: JAXA / NASA / PPARC)

SDO is designed to study changes in the sun’s activity and how that influences Earth. Now in its ninth year orbiting our planet, SDO continues taking measurements of the sun’s interior, magnetic field and the scorchingly hot outer atmosphere of the star, called theCorona. Three scientific experiments on board SDO track these tidbits about the sun: theAtmospheric Imaging Assembly(AIA), the EUV Variability Experiment (EVE) and the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI). In its lifetime, SDO’s nearly round-the-clock coverage of the sun has produced over 350 million images and has been used in over 3, 000 research papers,according to NASA.

A team from SDO will regularly update its website with the latest views of Mercury’s Nov. 11 transit, accessibleherestarting at about 7 am EST ( (GMT), about half an hour before Mercury’s first contact (when the planet’s silhouette is tangent to the solar disk for the first time).

NASA also runs SOHO, a 12 – instrument spacecraft built in collaboration with the European Space Agency. SOHO has been in space longer than SDO, having launched over two decades ago. It keeps regular tabs on the sun and produces severaltime-lapse views of the sunin gif-movie format. Like SDO, they are regularly updated on NASA’s website. Mercury will likely appear in these views, albeit perhaps as a speeding spot in an accelerated time-lapse video. SOHO videos can be viewedhere.

Japan's Hinode spacecraft captured this image of Mercury passing in front of the sun on Nov. 8, 2006, using the spacecraft's Solar Optical Telescope instrument.

Japan’s Hinode spacecraft captured this image of Mercury passing in front of the sun on Nov. 8, 2006, using the spacecraft’s Solar Optical Telescope instrument.

(Image credit: JAXA / NASA / PPARC)

TheHinodesolar- observing satellite, led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), has caught greatimagery of Mercury transitsin the past. The mission team will publish images sometime after the Nov. 11 event, a NASA spokesperson told (Hinode is also part of the Solar Terrestrial Probes Program within the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.) The 13 – year-old mission is equipped with three powerful telescopes that aid scientists in learning how solar phenomena like heating and magnetism affect the star’s dramatic activity, likesolar flares.

Hinode has also caught bigger shadows passing in front of the sun, like theGreat American Solar Eclipse of 2017.

There are a few newer missions keeping an eye on the sun and Mercury. The joint European-JapaneseBepiColombomission launched last year and has already taken over 500 images (like this selfie) on its lengthy journey to reach Mercury. But it wasn’t engineered to look at the sun, Erika Verbelen, an ESA spokesperson, told, so it will not see the solar transit on Monday.

NASA’sParker Solar Probehas the star’s name right in its mission title, but at the moment its instruments are turned off. Even if they were turned on, which will happen when the probe is closer to the sun in its mission-outlined orbit, Parker Solar Probe isn’t designed to take direct images of the sun, Karen C. Fox, a NASA spokesperson, told Rather, it takesobservations of the solar windstreaming off the sun.

Editor’s Note: Visit on Nov. 11 to see live webcast views of the rare Mercury transit as shown from telescopes on Earth and in space, along with complete coverage of the celestial event. If youSAFELYcapture a photo of the transit of Mercury and would like to share it with and our news partners for a story or gallery, you can send images and comments in

Follow Doris Elin Urrutia on Twitter@ salazar_elin. Follow us(on Twitter)@ Spacedotcomand on(Facebook).

All About Space Holiday 2019

Need more space?Subscribe to our sister title “All About Space” Magazinefor the latest amazing news from the final frontier!

(Image credit: All About Space)

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know

Brave Browser
Read More

About admin

Check Also

Watch NASA's James Webb Space Telescope unfold its golden mirror for the 1st time (video) –,

Watch NASA's James Webb Space Telescope unfold its golden mirror for the 1st time (video) –,

Home News Spaceflight NASA's next great observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, has fully deployed its primary mirror for the first time, marking another milestone on its journey to space.Before all work on the next-generation instrument, which is scheduled to launch in 2021, was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, technicians and engineers at the…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *