Mercury Transit: USC Aiken to host viewing of rare cosmic event

Monday, November 4, 2019
News 12 at 6 a.m.

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - In just a week, a rare cosmic event will bring eyes to the sky worldwide.

The Mercury Transit, when the small, moonlike planet passes in front of the sun, happens rarely, but it will on November 11.

The next time it happens will be 2032.

A viewing opportunity will be held at USC Aiken, as the Earth, Mercury and the Sun come into a line.

"Mercury will come across the Sun very slowly," said Dr. Gary Senn, director of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center at USC Aiken. "This will take from 7:30 in the morning until 1 o'clock in the afternoon."

The transit is kind of like a solar eclipse but smaller. But, unlike an eclipse, you can't view it with special glasses.

"People will have no idea that it's happening at all," Senn said. "Until telescopes were invented, no one knew that a transit of Mercury had occurred."

Specially-equipped telescopes must be used to view the passing. If not, scientists say you can go blind quickly. They'll be provided during the viewing at USC Aiken.

"We will place this solar filter on top of the telescope," Senn said. "That will allow us to view the sun safely."

The viewing at USC Aiken is free and open to the public. It all gets underway at 7:30 a.m. at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center.