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.
- •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.
- •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.
- •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.
- •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.
- •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.
- •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.
- •The transit will give scientists the opportunity to examine Mercury's ultra thin atmosphere.
- •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.
- •By looking at the sunlight passing through the exosphere during the transit, astronomers hope to learn more about fundamental solar interactions on planetary bodies.