September/October 2006 Table of Contents
of C. Cunningham.
Clifford J. Cunningham
seen from Earth, three celestial bodies sometimes pass in front
of the Sun: the Moon, Venus, and Mercury. And in November, it is
the case of our Moon, we see the spectacle of a solar eclipse, an
event easily visible for those in the path of the Moon’s shadow
and one that has caused wonder and excitement for thousands of years.
Unseen until the invention of the telescope, however, are rarer
events known as planetary transits.
occur when the planets closer to the Sun than the Earth, namely
Mercury and Venus, cross the solar disk. Transits of Venus are very
rare, indeed—none occurred in the entire 20th century—but
Mercury transits the Sun about thirteen times every century. The
most recent occurred in 2003, and the next one is set to happen
8 November of this year. If you miss the November event, you will
have to wait until it happens again in 2016!
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