One of the biggest astronomy events of the entire year will take place on Monday, Nov. 11, as Mercury passes directly between the Earth and the sun. This rare astronomical event is known as a transit.
The only way to safely view this event is with a solar filter, such as special glasses used during a solar eclipse. If using a telescope, it is incredibly important to have a solar filter on the part of the telescope where light enters. Not doing this can lead to severe and permanent eye damage.
This composite image of observations by NASA and the ESA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory shows the path of Mercury during its November 2006 transit. On Monday, May 9, 2016, the solar system’s smallest, innermost planet will resemble a black dot as it passes in front of the sun. NASA says the event occurs only about 13 times a century. (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory/NASA/ESA via AP)
The transit will be visible across all of North America (with the exception of Alaska), South America, Europe, Africa and western Asia. It lasts for over five hours, starting at 7:36 a.m. EST and ending at 1:03 p.m. EST.
People that miss this event will need to wait 13 years for the next opportunity to see a Mercury transit, which will take place on Nov. 13, 2032.
Leonid meteor shower
When: Nov. 16-17
November will feature the peak of two meteor showers, the Northern Taurids and the Leonids, the latter being the better of the two.
On the same day that Mercury passes across the face of the sun, the Northern Taurids will peak. This is a minor meteor shower, bringing only about five meteors per hour on the night of Nov. 11 into the morning of Nov. 12. However, it is known for its fireballs, or incredibly bright meteors that can light up the entire sky.
The following weekend, the Leonid meteor shower will peak on the night of Saturday, Nov. 16, into the early hours of Sunday, Nov. 17.
Onlookers can expect around 15 meteors per hour, with the greatest number of meteors coming after midnight.
Near the end of the month, two of the brightest planets will meet up in the evening sky.
Shortly after sunset on Sunday, Nov. 24, Venus and Jupiter will appear right next to each other in the southwestern sky in what is known by astronomers as a conjunction.
The two will appear so close that they will appear in the same field of view of most binoculars and telescopes. Venus will be the brighter of the two objects.
The planets Venus, left, and Jupiter, right, with three of their moons visible, appear close to each other in the sky above tree branches after dusk Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in Tacoma, Wash. In reality, the planets are millions of miles apart, but to viewers from Earth they have appeared very close together recently. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Folks that miss the planetary meet-up on Nov. 24 can look to the southwestern sky on the following nights, but the two planets will not be quite as close as they will be on the night of the conjunction.
Looking back at October
For the first time in spaceflight history, there was an all-female spacewalk when two astronauts, Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, were outside of the International Space Station (ISS) at the same time. The historic event took place on Oct. 18 as the astronauts replaced batteries located on the outside of the station.
Another first took place down on Earth earlier in October when NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover stood unsupported for the first time. This new rover will be sent to mars next year and will conduct research on the planet’s surface.
Deeper in our solar system, scientists announced the discovery of 20 new moons orbiting Saturn. The ringed planet now has 82 known satellites, more than any other planet in the solar system.
October brought the peak of three meteor showers: The Draconids, the Southern Taurids and the Orionids. The trio of meteor showers gave stargazers around the globe ample opportunities to spot some shooting stars.
The Hunter’s Moon rose in the middle of the month, the first full moon of fall.
A little over a week after the full moon, Blue Origin announced a team that will work together to send humans back to the moon by 2024.