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Mercury Is Passing Between the Earth and the Sun for the First Time in 10 Years

Mercury Is Passing Between the Earth and the Sun for the First Time in 10 Years

Every few years, a rare and exciting event happens that’s on a scale greater than that of our planet, and we’re not talking about a new Radiohead album. At this very moment, for the first time since 2006, the planet Mercury is passing between Earth and the Sun in an event known as a transit. For approximately seven hours today, from 7:12 a.m. ET/4:12 a.m. PT to 2:42 p.m. ET/11:42 a.m. PT, Mercury will appear as a small black dot slowly sliding across the surface of the sun as it casts a shadow on our home.

This is a good-news-bad-news situation: The good news is that as long as you aren’t in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, or islands in the West Pacific, you should be able to see the transit just fine. The bad news is that you definitely shouldn’t tilt your head back and watch for yourself, because if there’s one true thing our mothers taught us, it’s that staring at the sun isn’t the best idea.

Still, with just a bit of effort, the event is definitely observable by the average person. According to ScienceNews, “A solar-filtered telescope with at least 50x magnification is the best and safest way to enjoy the show.” Assuming that kind of equipment isn’t directly at your disposal, Royal Museums Greenwich has a live feed of the transit that you can watch right now:

One of NASA’s Twitter accounts, @NASASunEarth, is also keeping pretty good track of the proceedings:

Alternately, a local observatory might be having an observation event, so it wouldn’t hurt to check if you can see the transit in person. Regardless, this isn’t an event to miss. The next one happens relatively soon, in 2019, but after that, Mercury won’t be a tiny dot on the sun again until 2032.

Image: NASA/JPL

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