About 13 times a century, the planet closest to the sun passes between the earth and our star, and treats us to a rare transit event. Your next chance to catch this astronomical miracle is Monday, November 1
Why are these Mercury passages so rare? It has to do with the very eccentric orbit of the planet and how it interacts with the orbit of the earth. The distance from Mercury to the sun can vary quite a bit, and its orbit has a slope of 7 degrees compared to ours. That means the three of us don't queue that often.
Transit will be visible to much of the world, including most of North America, South America, Europe, and Africa. Sorry, Australia, you won't be able to see it in person.
If you want to be pumped about this cosmic event, watch this NASA video of the Mercury transit in 2016.
Time the transit
Mercury starts the festivities at 4.35 am PT. However, do not set your alarm too early if you are on the west coast of the US. You have to wait for the sun to rise before the transit is visible.
Mercury will stroll its sweet time through the face of the sun: the transit takes about 5.5 hours.
Important: Do not look at the sun with the naked eye. You need the right equipment to see the passage.
Mercury appears as a graceful dark spot moving through the sun, so your normal solar eclipse glasses don't work here. "Because Mercury is so small from our perspective on Earth, you need binoculars or a telescope with a solar filter," says NASA.
However, you cannot just hit your eclipse glasses and then hold up your binoculars. The space agency warns: "Do not combine sunglasses / eclipse glasses with binoculars. You can seriously damage your eyes!" This can cause the solar film to melt in the glasses, so don't cook your eyeballs.
If you do not have equipment (or a buddy with astronomy with the equipment), look for a look-through party in your Surface. Astronomy clubs and museums are likely places. View NASA's searchable club and event guide to find fans of the local area.
Your view of the transit also depends on the weather. I hope for a clear sky. If you can't access the right equipment or if clouds threaten to ruin your Mercury view, go online for the next best thing.
View the transit live online
The other way to catch the transit action is to relax at home or at the office and enjoy a live streamed event. The Virtual Telescope Project offers an online observation session that starts at 4:30 AM PT.
NASA & # 39; s team at Solar Dynamics Observatory will share an almost live version of the transit using SDO images.
Originally published on November 7.