Watch Mercury pass in front of the sun

Posted at 7:21 AM, May 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-09 14:55:59-04

Astronomers and amateur stargazers turned their sights to the sun on Monday for a rare glimpse of Mercury in motion.

For the first time in 10 years Mercury was visible from Earth as it passed across the face of the sun. With the help of of a telescope and solar filters it appeared as a black dot during its 7.5-hour transit, which occured between about 7:12 a.m. and 2:42 p.m., 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

For now, please enjoy this NASA animation of the transit.