While much of the KWWL viewing area will be dealing with snow tracking out of the area and strong winds blowing snow around, an event will occur well over our heads that only happens about 13 times a century…. Mercury will transit the Sun.
This means that as Mercury moves in its orbit around the Sun, it will cross the the Sun as it passes between the Sun and the Earth, so it can be seen from our lovely planet. But only if you have the correct equipment. You should NEVER look directly at the sun. You should always use the correct filters on any telescope.
You may be able to find a local astronomy club that is holding a viewing party (click here for clubs in Iowa). However, chances are, most of our viewing area will have at least some cloud cover during the best viewing time.
Mercury will enter in front of the Sun around 6:36 AM Iowa time and take about 5 and a half hours to go all the way across. The planet will be closest to the middle of the Sun around 9:20 AM CST with it reaching the other edge of the Sun around 12:04 PM our time.
Looking at various articles about the current transit of Mercury, it looks like the path won’t be the one you would expect… from right to left or left to right. This one will be at an angle from our vantage point. The best image I found uses Pacific time, so just add two hours to get Iowa time (CST)
Find more information from Jet Propulsion Labs by clicking here.
Even though the orbit of Mercury takes it around the Sun once every 88 days, it races around the center of our Solar System on a plane that isn’t exactly the same as Earth’s. It is a bit tilted. Therefore, the exact conditions for Mercury to go across the center of the Sun only occurs relatively rarely. Read more at phys.org (click here)
Since Mother Nature isn’t going to give us perfectly clear skies for the entire transit of Mercury in this part of our century, you may be able to view it via the Griffith Observatory in California. They are hosting an online viewing… but remember, they are two hours behind us in time. If I figure it right, it looks like they will start their online viewing at 8:15 our time. Here is the link
Learn more about Mercury by clicking here.
The video below comes from here.