Astronomers and amateur stargazers are turning their sights to the sun on Monday, May 9th for a rare glimpse of Mercury in motion.
For the first time in 10 years, Mercury will be visible from Earth as it passes across the face of the sun. With the help of a telescope and solar filters, it will appear as a black dot during its 7.5-hour transit, which will occur between about 6:12 a.m. and 1:42 p.m. CT — according to NASA.
Mercury, the smallest planet in our solar system, passes between Earth and the sun about 13 times a century. The last trek took place in 2006 and the next one will be on November 11, 2019, according to NASA.
Scientists will use the transit to study the ultra thin outermost region of Mercury’s atmosphere, the exosphere. The rest of us, though, can just sit back and marvel at the coolness of it all.
As tempting as it may be to stare at the sun during this event, it’s best to heed your science teacher’s advice: Don’t stare at the sun.
Why not try one of these methods instead?
Find a telescope or high-powered binoculars fitted with solar filters made of specially coated glass or Mylar.
Test your recall of elementary school science to make a pinhole projector.