(WTNH) — NASA will be broadcasting a stunning view as Mercury passes directly between Earth and the Sun this morning.
The rare journey, known as a “transit,” will make Mercury look like a black dot gliding across the sun’s face. The transit started around 7:12 a.m., and it will take Mercury more than seven hours to traverse the sun completely.
Mercury’s last transit was in 2006, and the next journey isn’t until 2019.
As the first planet from the sun makes its journey, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory will take the first ever photos of the event. You’ll be able to see those images at images, visit the Solar Dynamics Observatory website here in close to real-time.
NASA TV is broadcasting a live and interactive program where experts discuss Mercury’s transit (see player above). You can ask the experts questions by posting to NASA’s Facebook and Twitter pages by using the hashtag #AskNASA.
Scientists say that since Mercury is so small, to see the transit, a telescope or binoculars with special solar filters will be needed. Solar filters must be used, as it is dangerous to look directly into the sun.
Transits have been used for hundreds of years to study the planets in our solar system. As planets cross in front of the sun, the brightness dims a little. That can be measured and compared to others stars to find planets orbiting them. Scientists can also figure out how big or small other planets are, how far away they are from stars, and what they’re made of, all based on a transit’s path.