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How to watch Mercury’s transit across the sun on Monday

WATCH: Mercury travels across sun in transit

Mercury will be travelling across the sun on Monday — something that won’t happen again for 13 years. And with proper precautions, Canadians will be able to take in the action.

Paul A. Delaney, a York University astronomy professor and director of the Allan I Carswell Observatory, said it will look like a tiny black dot travelling across the sun.

“It’s comparable in size to a sunspot, except that unlike a sunspot, this one is going to move and it’s going to move from one side of the sun almost across its diameter, in fact.”

The event will take place from 7:36 a.m. ET to 1:04 p.m. on Nov. 11, he said.

Mercury travels across sun in transit
Mercury travels across sun in transit

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Of course, it will only be visible if there are clear skies.

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Mercury, a planet about 4,800 kilometres in diameter, orbits between the sun and the earth. But because it doesn’t travel on the exact plane as the earth goes around the sun, we can only view it passing in front of the star rarely. Mercury transits occur about 13 times a century.

The last one occurred in 2016, but the next one isn’t until 2032.

Although the trek will appear slow, Mercury will fly across the sun at roughly 241,000 km/h.

How to watch

Amateur astronomers use their telescopes to watch planet Mercury passing in front of the sun, on the grounds of the Bergedorf observatory, in Hamburg, Germany, 9 March 9, 2016.
Amateur astronomers use their telescopes to watch planet Mercury passing in front of the sun, on the grounds of the Bergedorf observatory, in Hamburg, Germany, 9 March 9, 2016. EPA/DANIEL BOCKWOLDT

First things first — never stare at the sun without appropriate solar filtration, Delaney said. That usually means finding a quality pair of eclipse glasses from a reputable organization or retailer. Or a pair of solar glasses.

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In this case, though, neither will be enough. In order to see Mercury, you’ll need magnification as well as protection from the sun.

A telescope that is equipped with a properly-rated solar lens is needed, Delaney said. A pair of binoculars that also has appropriate solar filters would work — but they’re fairly rare.

The Society for Popular Astronomy has more details on to how to safely observe Mercury’s transit.

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Delaney recommends attending an event in your area that has such a telescope. (The Royal Astronomical Society has a list of events around the country here and some university observatories and other institutions are also hosting).

NASA will broadcast the transit as seen from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, with only a brief lag.

With files from Rachael D’Amore, Global News and the Associated Press