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Watch Mercury Cut Across the Sun Today



Monday just got a lot more interesting: In a rare transit event, Mercury is set to cross in front of the Sun today.

Using proper safety equipment skygazers across the globe can watch as a tiny dark spot slowly moves across the brightest star.

From about 7:35 am EST to 1:04 p.m. EST today, Mercury will be visible from Earth as an itty-bitty black dot crawling across the face of the Sun.

Known as a transit, this happens when a planet lines up just right between the Sun and Earth. And in the case of Mercury, it only occurs about 1

3 times per century.

While it takes the innermost planet only 88 days to orbit the sun (about nine months less than our world), Mercury's orbit is tilted, so it rarely lines up perfectly with the Sun and Earth.

The next Mercury transit, according to NASA, is not until 2032.

Folks in the US, however, may want to call in sick or take a long lunch break today : Americans won't catch another glimpse for 30 years.

But remember: It's never safe to look directly at the Sun

Those planning to watch today's event from the ground need binoculars or a telescope with a certified Sun filter; solar glasses are not enough. Ask your local astronomy club if they have properly fitted equipment, or look for viewing parties at a nearby museum.

To experience the entire ( five-hour-long ) event, people in central and western US will have to find a spot outside before sunrise; Anyone watching from easterly regions can wait until just after daybreak.

If that's not an option, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite will provide near-real-time images of the transit.

“Transiting planets outside our Solar System are a key part of how we look for exoplanets, "NASA wrote in a blog post.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, has been scouring the sky for new cosmic neighbors, using a series of cameras to search for celestial bodies orbiting other stars.

"This is similar to Mercury's transit across the Sun, but light-years away in other Solar Systems," the agency explained. "So far, TESS has discovered 29 confirmed exoplanets using transits — with over 1,000 more candidates being studied by scientists."

Keep an eye on the sky this month for more exciting events.

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