Mercury to make transit of sun Monday


After almost a decade, Mercury will once again travel between the Earth and sun, marking a relatively rare celestial event that will be visible to sky watchers around the world. People from many other regions will also be able to watch it. All of them need a high-end telescope to see it well.

Note that you should NEVER observe a transit with your naked eye or any optical instruments without proper protection.

NASA reports that one of its scientists, Rosemary Killen, will be working with colleagues to study Mercury's ultra-thin atmosphere - or "exosphere" - during the transit at the National Solar Observatory in appropriately named, Sunspot, N.M. Right now, this means transits of Mercury only can happen during the months of May and November and can take place only 13 or 14 times each century.

Look for Mercury south of the sun's equator. It will be visible everywhere on Earth except New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Indonesia and some parts of Eastern Asia. It shows the field of view of the SOHO sun-watching satellite.

These people can still watch the event as NASA has announced to live stream it on NASA TV and on the space agency's Facebook page.

"When you look at the transit of Mercury, what you're going to see is a little black dot, very small, passing from the western limb of the sun, down to the southeastern limb of the sun and that will take a few hours", says Jackson.

It will begin its transit at 12:12 BST and complete the passage at 19:42 BST. Mercury, the solar system's smallest innermost planet, measures about 3,000 miles across so it would be too small to spot.

On Monday, Mercury will make a rare trip across the surface of the sun, making it visible from Earth for several hours.

The 2016 Mercury planetary transit is seen in an undated NASA conceptual image. That combination of factors makes for some pretty wonky math: There's a pattern to the frequency of Mercury's transits, but it's not as simple as "every x number of years".

If you want to check out the transit online, you've got a lot of options.

This composite image of observations by NASA and the ESA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory shows the path of Mercury during its November 2006 transit.

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