This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 November 9 – November 16

The observing highlight of the week, and of the year, is a transit of Mercury. On Monday, from 8:36 am to 2:04 pm, Mercury can be seen crossing the face of the Sun with a properly filtered telescope, providing the weather cooperates. A Mercury transit occurs only 13 or 14 times a century, and of those the Sun might not be up in New Brunswick or it might be cloudy. Although Mercury passes between Earth and the Sun every 116 days, it is usually above or below the Sun in our sky because its orbit is tilted to ours. It is only when Mercury reaches inferior conjunction within a few days of May 8 or November 10, when the two orbits line up with the Sun, that we see a transit. Mercury will be a tiny, sharply defined black circle moving slowly across the Sun, too tiny to be seen without a solar-filtered telescope.

Members of RASC NB, the provincial astronomy club, are planning public observing events for the Mercury transit. On Monday, look for safely-filtered telescopes set up at Bore View Park in Moncton, and in Saint John at Saints Rest Beach, at the entrance to Rockwood Park, and at Loyalist Plaza by Market Square. It will be 30 years before another Mercury transit is visible from New Brunswick.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:11 am and sunset will occur at 4:54 pm, giving 9 hours, 43 minutes of daylight (7:14 am and 5:01 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:20 am and set at 4:46 pm, giving 9 hours, 26 minutes of daylight (7:23 am and 4:53 pm in Saint John).

The Moon passes near Uranus on Sunday and it is full, the Rivers Freezing Moon, on Tuesday. Mercury is at inferior conjunction on Monday, becoming visible in the morning sky next week, while Venus and Jupiter are moving toward a southwestern rendezvous in two weeks. Saturn remains in good position for suppertime observing and sets around 8:30 pm. Mars rises at 5 am above the bright star Spica. The North Taurid meteor shower peaks this Tuesday. Although the Taurids are not plentiful, they tend to be bright.

The Fredericton Astronomy Club meets in the UNB Forestry-Earth Sciences building at 7 pm this Tuesday, and RASC, the provincial astronomy club, meets in the same location at 1 pm on November 16. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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