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Visibility of the transit of Mercury

The transit of Mercury in front of the Sun. For several hours on May 9, 2016, the planet Mercury will appear like a tiny black disk silhouetted against our star. Contacts are when the edge of Mercury’s disk and that of the Sun seem to touch.
Photo: Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan (M. Jobin, d'après F. Espenak/
Transit of Mercury, May 9, 2016
  • Transit of Mercury, May 9, 2016
  • map for the transit of Mercury, May 9, 2016

Never look at the Sun directly, unless you place a specially designed filter in front of your eyes.
How to safely observe the Sun

On May 9, 2016, Mercury will cross the Sun’s disk in a little more than 7 hours. This transit will be visible in its entirety in the eastern portion of North and South America, in the areas near the North Pole, in the Atlantic Ocean, and the western part of Europe and Africa. In the Pacific and on the West Coast of Canada and USA, the transit will be in progress at sunrise. For the rest of the African continent, Europe and Asia, the Sun will set before the end of the transit.

For the first time since 1960, the phenomenon will be visible from beginning to end in Québec. As seen from Montreal, the transit begins in the morning: Mercury will take a little over 3 minutes to cross the edge of the Sun, from 7:13:27 to 7:16:39 EDT (contacts 1 and 2, respectively). The Sun will then be about 16 degrees above the eastern horizon. (For locations some distance from Montreal, the actual contact times vary by a few seconds.)

During the hours that follow, we’ll be able to track the progression of the planet’s tiny round silhouette in front of the Sun. Maximum transit occurs at 10:57:47 EDT, with the Sun 53 degrees high in the southeast: Mercury will then be two-thirds of the way between the edge and centre of the sun’s disk. The planet will exit the Sun’s face gradually, between 14:38:08 and 14:41:19 EDT (contacts 3 and 4, respectively). At the end of the phenomenon, the Sun will be a good 54 degrees above the southwest horizon.

If you miss this transit of Mercury, you’ll get another chance on November 11, 2019. After that, the next one that will be visible from beginning to end from Québec will only occur on May 7… 2049!

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