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Image courtesy of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Mercury Transit on November 8, 2006
News story originally written on November 6, 2006
The planet Mercury will cross in
front of the Sun on Wednesday, November
8, 2006. When that happens,
astronomers call it a transit. A transit is like a solar
eclipse. An eclipse happens when the Moon passes in front of the Sun. A
transit happens when a planet passes in front of the Sun. Planets are much
further away than the Moon, so they look much smaller. A planet does not completely
cover the Sun during a transit like the Moon
does during an eclipse.
will be 14 transits of Mercury this century. This one will be the second. The last
transit of Mercury before this one was in 2003. The next won't
be until May 9, 2016.
Only two planets ever transit the Sun. The two planets
are Mercury and Venus.
Transits of Venus are very rare. They only happen about two times every 100
years! In the 1700's astronomers used
transits of Venus to make the first good measurement of the distance between
Earth and the Sun.
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