See Mercury On May 9! Here’s How To Catch It
Astronomers and skygazers will have an opportunity to witness a rare celestial event, Mercury passing through the face of the sun, set to occur on Monday May 9.Advertisement
Mercury and Venus occasionally transit between the earth and the sun. The phenomenon, called the solar transit, occurs twice in a century with Venus, and 13 or 14 times with Mercury.
The Mercury transit will begin at 7:12 a.m. ET on Monday. To those viewing the astronomical event, the planet closest to the sun will appear as a black dot as it passes the face of the star. The occurrence is expected to last 7.5 hours, with the planet traveling out of the sun’s face at 2:42 p.m. ET.
According to NASA, people in the eastern United States will be able to witness the event. Since the event will last for more than seven hours, people will be able to watch it from almost everywhere except Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines and eastern Asia, as reported by Space.com.
The passing of Mercury in front of the face of the sun will allow astronomers to observe the planet’s exosphere, which according to Discovery News “is formed through interactions with the solar wind that continuously washes over the planet’s rocky surface, causing the outgassing of particles that are swept back like a comet’s tail.” The website also notes that, by observing the sunlight passing over the planet’s surface, astronomers will be able to study solar interactions on planetary bodies.
Discovery News warns people not to directly look at the sun, nor use unprotected telescope or binoculars; as doing so can cause permanent eye damage. More so, as the size of Mercury is extremely small, eclipse viewing glass will not be adequate. Sunglasses are also not recommended.
As reported by ABC News, the last time that Mercury passed through the face of the sun was in 2006.