Africa, on Monday, 11th November 2019, will witness Mercury transit the Sun. The event will be visible from anywhere in Africa and may be observed by projecting the image of the Sun through a small telescope on this date at 2.35 pm CAT, according to a statement by the African Astronomical Society (AfAS).
The transit will be as a result of Mercury lining up in a way that prevents part of the Sun’s rays from reaching Earth. As this occurs, a tiny black dot can be seen silhouetted against the Sun’s disk. Only two planets, Mercury and Venus, can be seen transiting the Sun from Earth as they are the only planets that orbit inside Earth’s orbit.
Transits of Mercury, as it concerns Earth, are much more common than Venue transits, with about 13 or 14 per century, partly because Mercury is closer to the Sun and orbits it faster.
Mercury transits occur in May and November. The last four transits occurred on November 15, 1999; May 7, 2003; November 8, 2006; and May 9, 2016. The next transit will occur on November 11, 2019, and then on November 13, 2032. A typical transit lasts several hours.
AfAS warn Observers against staring directly at the Sun with their naked eyes or through a telescope, binoculars and lens as it is injurious.
“It is only safe to observe by projecting the image of the sun onto a piece of paper and displaying this image”, AfAS advises.
To get a handbook on guidelines to the safe observation of the transit of Mercury, click here.
The African Astronomical Society encourages those with access to sites and small telescopes, which can project the image of the Sun, to share the Mercury transit with the public by calling on the local community to come and witness the event. To collect information on events where people can see the Transit of Mercury safely, we kindly request that you fill the form below if you intend on hosting a public event to observe the transit:
Timings of the transit can also be found at the link below:
The last time Africa witnessed was in This is an initiative of an informal platform of science communicators in South Africa, including the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), and many Science Centres, Planetaria and Universities. If your organisation would like to join us, email us!
PHONE: SAAO – +27214470025
WEBSITE: https://www.africanastronomicalsociety.org/transit-of-mercury, https://www.ska.ac.za/outreach/, https://www.saao.ac.za/outreach/
Ogechi Onuoha is a Cambridge Certified ESOL editor with a background in reporting, international relations, creative writing and adept in industry research and analysis. She is passionate about curating and evaluating the benefits/relevance of space to grassroots development and women’s participation in the space sector.