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Mercury's Time to "Shine"  

Mercury, September/October 2006 Table of Contents

Courtesy of C. Cunningham.

by Clifford J. Cunningham

As seen from Earth, three celestial bodies sometimes pass in front of the Sun: the Moon, Venus, and Mercury. And in November, it is Mercury’s turn.

In 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.

"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!

If you enjoyed this excerpt from a feature article and would like to receive our bi-monthly Mercury magazine, we invite you to join the ASP and receive 6 issues a year.






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