Mercury, the smallest planet in the solar system, will soar across the blinding sun on Monday, presenting a rare opportunity for Long Island astronomy lovers.
“You think I’m going to miss this? I have my telescope all ready,” said Sue Rose of East Meadow, president of the Amateur Observers’ Society of New York. “It’s a special type of eclipse.”
With Earth in the shadows, Rose and as many as 50 members of her group plan to watch Mercury pass by in an undisclosed location just after 7 a.m.
It should last until about 3 p.m., the predicted time Mercury is to have crossed the sun.
Rose said she had seen the occurrence once before, with the benefit of good weather and clear skies.
“Half the time, the weather doesn’t cooperate, but this time it will be different,” Rose said.
Monday’s forecast calls for sunny skies and few clouds, said Faye Barthold, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton.
Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, completes an orbit every 88 days.
After Monday, Mercury won’t orbit between the Earth and sun until 2019. It will pass across the face of the sun next in 2049, according to space.com.
Earthlings won’t be able to view that one because it will be on the opposite side of the sun, Rose said. All told, the passing happens 13 times a century.
“A planet actually crossing the sun is rare,” Rose said.
Special filters and telescopes are needed to safely view what has been described as a black dot passing by, as the sun is too bright to be looked at with the naked eye, experts say.
The space broadcasting website Slooh.com will live stream the event with commentary.
Someone also could use a sheet of paper to watch the passing while protecting their vision, but “Mercury is so tiny that chances are you won’t see it,” Rose said.
Mercury last crossed the sun in 2006.