UNUSUALLY for this column - which likes to give The Westmorland Gazette readers a heads-up about interesting and attractive events and sights in the night sky - this week I'm going to tell you 'not' to look at something happening in the sky, writes STUART ATKINSON.

On the afternoon of Monday, November 11, the planet Mercury will move directly between the Earth and Sun, and for a short time it will be silhouetted against the Sun's brilliant face. Astronomers call this kind of event a transit; they're like mini-eclipses and only Mercury and Venus can be involved in them. The problem is, to see the transit of Mercury safely you'll need very specialised equipment of the kind only experienced amateur astronomers have, such as a powerful telescope fitted with a very special solar filter. The filter is used to reduce the blinding glare of the Sun and allow Mercury to be seen as a tiny, tiny black dot. Without one, anyone looking at the Sun through a telescope will be blinded as the intense heat and light of the Sun is concentrated in their eyeball, frying it like an egg.

Just like a solar eclipse, and looking at anything involving the Sun, this Mercury transit is potentially very dangerous. If you don't use the right observing equipment and techniques you will damage your eyes and maybe lose your sight altogether. So, unless you have an amateur astronomer neighbour who can show you the transit using their equipment, follow the event online via one of the live feed channels that will be running through the afternoon, or just wait to see it covered on the TV news later that evening.