November 11 – 24, 2019
Mount Washington — Mercury, the smallest planet in our solar system – slightly larger than Earth’s moon – and closest to the Sun, can be observed crossing the Sun today, Nov. 11, from 7:34 a.m. until 1:04 p.m. when viewed through a telescope with a solar filter. Locally, the public is invited to experience this rare event with amateur astronomer Rick Costello, who will be equipped with a solar viewing telescope outside Mason Library, 231 Main St. in Great Barrington, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Alternatively, especially when cloudy skies prevail, go to https://www.timeanddate.com/live/ to see real-time transmission of Mercury’s progress. The next Transit of Mercury visible in its entirety from our location will be in 2049.
When Mercury’s orbit takes the little planet out of the Sun’s glare, it rises as a morning star close to the east-southeast horizon. Normally elusive because close to the Sun and of low magnitude, Mercury brightens quickly in the coming weeks and rises higher in the sky before sunrise. It is furthest from the rising Sun on Nov. 28, and continues to brighten into early December. At a horizon view location, look by 6 a.m. beginning next week, when binoculars may help, and be sure to enjoy naked-eye appreciations later in the month.
Meanwhile, planets Jupiter and Venus are an alluring sight as they approach each other close to the southwest horizon within the hour after sunset. Sunset is around 4:30 p.m. This week, go to a location with a view to the horizon to find brilliant Venus, with bright Jupiter above. By next week, the 18th, Venus appears closer to Jupiter. As Venus climbs higher above the horizon, Jupiter loses altitude. Scarcely two weeks after the Transit of Mercury, on the 23rd and 24th, Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction, or closest approach to each other. Brilliant Venus continues to climb into the evening sky, passing Jupiter. Jupiter will disappear from the evening sky by mid-December.
Nov. 11 https://www.timeanddate.com/live/
NASA TV live stream 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. a.m. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/news/2016/5/6/transit-of-mercury/