A Mercury transit happens only about 13 times a century. Even more rare is when the planet Mercury passes right across the middle of the sun, and it's happening Monday. Periodic, fleeting dips of starlight indicate an orbiting planet. Plus, find resources for engaging students in this rare celestial event!
Mercury is the smallest planet in our Solar System; compared to the Sun, the planet will look like a tiny black dot smoothly sailing past the face of our star. If you miss Monday's event, be prepared for a long wait or a long trip.
First things first, NASA is reminding the public that it is very unsafe to look directly at the Sun - doing so puts the person at risk of permanent vision damage.
In fact, the only places it can't be seen from are Australia and most of Asia and Alaska, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The show begins at 7:36 a.m. EST on the eastern coast of the US and will already be underway when the sun rises west of the Rocky Mountains.More news: How 'Crazy Rich Asians' paved the way for 'Last Christmas'
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Mercury transit 2019 will be seen from Middle East, Africa, and Europe at sunset time, while it will be seen from Eastern and Central America at noon and from US and Canada at sunrise, the full duration of transit will be 5 hours and 30 minutes, Dr Marzouk added. And, of course, to be visible, the transit must occur in daylight for your spot on the Earth. Weather permitting, the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit (INSERT http://www.sbau.org/ HERE) will have safely-filtered solar telescopes set up at Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta, to show you the view.
Don't have access to a telescope or binoculars with a solar filter? If you don't have those tools, check if a local astronomy club will be hosting a public viewing. Beginning at 4:41 a.m. PST (7:41 a.m. EST) you can see images of Mercury passing in front of the Sun at NASA's 2019 Mercury Transit page, with updates through the end of the transit at 10:04 a.m. PST (1:04 p.m. EST).
This image of the Mercury transit's final minutes was taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on May 9, 2016, with its Atmospheric Imaging Assembly.
If you're in the USA, don't miss the show, as this is the last time a transit will be visible from the continental United States until 2049!