Mercury will cross the face of the sun. Here's how to watch safely - CBC.ca - Canadanewsmedia
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Mercury will cross the face of the sun. Here's how to watch safely – CBC.ca

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A rare event will take place on Monday — Mercury will pass in front of the sun, an event called a “transit” that will be visible across the country, should the weather comply.

Here on Earth, we can only see transits of Mercury and Venus, the only two planets between us and the sun. Transits of Mercury occur on average 13 times per century. The last one was in May 2016; the next will be on Nov. 13, 2032. The last time Venus transited was in 2012; the next won’t be until 2117.

We don’t see these events more often because those planets have orbital paths that are inclined compared to that of Earth. This means that they don’t always end up directly between us and the sun.

If you want to observe Mercury’s transit — first things first — never look directly at the sun without appropriate protection. Like a solar eclipse, a special filter is required in order to prevent eye damage. However, using those glasses you may have saved from the “Great American Eclipse” in 2017 won’t do.

It’s not because they won’t protect you, but Mercury — a planet that is only slightly larger than our moon and which lies roughly 50 million kilometres from Earth — appears as a tiny dot against the sun, which is 300 times larger. You’re going to need a magnification of at least 50 times to see it.

This image of Mercury passing in front of the sun was captured on Nov. 6, 2006, by the Solar Optical Telescope, one of three primary instruments on board the Hinode solar observatory. (Hinode JAXA/NASA/PPARC)

The good news is, many astronomical groups will gather — with their telescopes and proper filters — to watch the event, providing it’s not cloudy.

The first contact, or the moment the edge of the planet first begins to cross the sun, will occur at 7:35 a.m. ET. The time of greatest transit, the halfway point, occurs at roughly 10:20 a.m., and the transit will end at roughly 1:04 p.m.

From British Columbia across the Prairies to northwestern Ontario and the northern tip of Quebec, the transit will have already begun by sunrise. (The same goes for most of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut). The rest of the country will be able to enjoy the entire 5.5-hour show.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has a list of events happening across the country, including in Calgary, Saskatoon, Montreal, Ottawa and St. John’s.

Several universities, such as York University in Toronto, Western University in London, Ont., the University of Waterloo, in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. and the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon will also be hosting “watch parties.” There is also a viewing party at Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan de Montreal.

If the weather doesn’t co-operate, you can always watch it online, on Slooh’s YouTube channel and The Virtual Telescope Project

While you won’t notice any difference in the light output from the sun, these types of transits are primarily used to find planets around distant stars. When a planet transits its star, its light dims ever so slightly, allowing astronomers to detect the orbiting world.

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Look up! Northern lights to dance across Canada overnight – CTV News

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TORONTO – Forecasters say the northern lights will be unusually vibrant and visible Wednesday night and early Thursday morning across almost all of Canada.

This is because energy from a solar storm is expected to hit the earth Wednesday night, amplifying the usual aurora borealis.

According to the aurora forecast from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Canadians in cities including Edmonton and Winnipeg will see dazzling displays from the natural phenomenon, if the skies are clear.

The entire country will, weather permitting, potentially be able to see the lights low on the horizon. So will people in U.S. cities such as Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Seattle.

Based on midday forecasts, cloud cover blocking the lights looked to be a serious concern in Winnipeg and Halifax, less serious in places such as Edmonton and Toronto, and not a concern at all in Vancouver and Montreal.

However, skywatchers whose plans are foiled by clouds on Wednesday may not be out of luck.

While the aurora borealis is expected to recede from its peak by Thursday night, it will still be visible in many of the same areas. People in parts of Nova Scotia, southern Ontario and Vancouver Island, however, will not be expected to see any sort of repeat performance.

Anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of the northern lights should head to a dark location far from the lights of the city, as light pollution can obscure the aurora. Peak viewing conditions are typically between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. local time, although the aurora can be visible anytime between sunset and sunrise.

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New SpaceX Starship prototype pops its top during test… literally – CNET

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Starship Mk1 experienced a bit of rapid disassembly.


LabPadre/Screenshot by CNET

It looks as though a little re-assembly may be required on the biggest prototype yet of Elon Musk’s Mars Starship

The early version of the next generation SpaceX rocket appeared to fail during a pressurization test, sending billowing clouds of gas and its hood miles into the air at the company’s Boca Chica, Texas test site on Wednesday.

A webcam streaming from nearby South Padre Island caught the “anomaly” that occurred at 3:27 p.m. Central Time.

A more distant view catches the sizable hood falling back to the ground:

“The purpose of today’s test was to pressurize systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected,” a SpaceX spokesperson told CNET. “There were no injuries, nor is this a serious setback.”

Fortunately, SpaceX also has another prototype – “Mk2” – at its Florida facilities, so we may still see the next phase of Starship development soon.   

On Twitter, Musk said SpaceX will take the opportunity to move on to its next iteration, “Mk3,” which he says will have a more advanced flight design.

It’s important to remember this in no way dooms Starship’s development and it’s not clear how much it may set the program back, if at all. It seems, however, that Mk1 is pretty much old news now with a SpaceX spokesperson telling CNET ” the decision had already been made to not fly this test article and the team is focused on the Mk3 builds, which are designed for orbit.”

The previous single-engine prototype, dubbed “Starhopper,” successfully performed a few very short hops, topping out at 150 meters (492 feet) earlier this year.  


Now playing:
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SpaceX aces Starhopper rocket test

2:41

Updated 4:22 p.m. PT: Adds comment from SpaceX spokesperson.

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Six tips to get great photos of the northern lights tonight – County Weekly News

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Northern lights along the Red Deer River west of Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday March 18, 2015.

Mike Drew / Postmedia

The stars are aligning for a potentially great northern lights show in the skies above Calgary Wednesday night.

The aurora forecast from the University of Alaska is predicting activity of 4-to-5 out of 9 on the KP index, with anything 5 or above being considered a geomagnetic storm.

The predicted activity, coupled with a forecast of clear skies for Alberta and an early sunset means the odds of seeing the lights tonight are in your favour.

While seeing the northern lights should be on every Canadian’s bucket list, you’re going to want some photos of that potentially once-in-a-lifetime event.

We spoke with two seasoned photographers about their tips for capturing a solid shot of the aurora.

Get outta town

Postmedia photographer Mike Drew said getting away from light pollution will make all the difference.

“The best direction to go is northeast of the city, because there’s less light pollution out that way,” he said. “So out towards Beiseker or Irricana.”

Freelance photographer Christy Turner agreed with Drew, but noted it’s not impossible to see them from within the city.

“It definitely is possible, but you want to go somewhere where there’s little light pollution,” she said.


Christy Turner captured this amazing shot from a balcony in Mission, proving it is possible to get good northern lights photos without leaving the city.

Christy Turner /

Christy Turner Photography

“Even Nose Hill is a great spot because you can definitely see it from Nose Hill.”

Turner said those in the deep south of the city could just drive 10 minutes west or east (preferably east) outside the city limits to find some darker skies.

Be sure to look to the north and northeast to see the lights if they’re out.

Use a DSLR

Drew said the really new cell phones might get you an image of the lights, but really you’ll want a DSLR camera.

“If (the northern lights are) quite bright, the new iPhone 11 or the newest Google pixel phone, they should both give you something at least, but it won’t be as good as a DSLR,” he said.

Long exposure is key

The trick with the aurora is to let as much light as possible hit the camera sensor. Turner said for those familiar with manual setting on a DSLR, they need to use their lowest f-stop, start at an ISO of 1600, and have an exposure time of 12 seconds.

Drew said 15 seconds is not too long an exposure time. He also recommends a wide-angle lens, if you have one.

Both photographers agree that a tripod is a must, and a remote trigger is great to have if you want crisp photos. Turner suggested an easy workaround for those who don’t have a trigger.

“You can just put it on the self-timer for three seconds, and that way there’s no motion on the photo.”

Add a subject

Drew said getting shots of the sky is easy enough, but a true artist will want to add something to the foreground to make their photos really pop.

“Something like a barn, or something without a big yard light in it, so that when you have the picture you know where you are,” he said.


Adding something to the foreground of your shot can take a northern lights photo to the next level.

Christy Turner /

Christy Turner Photography

Safety first

If you spot the lights while driving, it could be tempting to just pull over and get out your camera, but Drew cautions against that.

“You have to be in a place that’s really safe to park. Try to get off to side roads – the roads less traveled.”

Turner said dressing for the weather is also an important part of safety. She recommends bringing hand warmers and blankets just in case you end up stuck and waiting for someone to come pick you up.

Ask for help

If it’s photos you’re after, Turner said you’re not alone in Alberta.

“My top tip would be to join Alberta Aurora Chasers on Facebook because there’s over 24,000 members spread across Alberta,” she said. “If there’s anything happening, they always start a thread and reports will come in from all over the province.”

If you capture a great aurora photo tonight, we’d love to see them. Send submissions to online@postmedia.comand we’ll create a gallery.

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