You Should Go Look at Mercury, Right Now

On Monday, spectators around the world will have a chance to witness a celestial event so rare, it happens only thirteen times per century.
  1. Starting at 7:15am Eastern time, the planet Mercury will slowly pass in front of our sun in a journey that will take almost seven and a half hours.
  2. Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, will appear as a small black dot, moving in a straight line across a portion of the sun.
  3. People on Earth will be able to view the transit through a telescope, or high-powered binoculars with solar filters before the spectacle ends at 2:42pm Eastern time.
  4. NASA expects the event to be widely visible from most of Earth, including the Americas, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Europe, Africa and much of Asia.
  5. In the U.S. people on the East coast will have the best view. Those on the West coast will be able to see the spectacle after sunrise.
  6. This is a rare phenomenon. The last time Mercury transited in front of our sun was in 2006, and the next transit will be in 2019, and then not again until 2032.
  7. The transit will give scientists the opportunity to examine Mercury's ultra thin atmosphere.
  8. Mercury's rocky surface is constantly bombarded by solar winds and plasma from the nearby sun. The winds help constantly replenish the planet's atmosphere, or exosphere.
  9. By looking at the sunlight passing through the exosphere during the transit, astronomers hope to learn more about fundamental solar interactions on planetary bodies.