NASA To Provide Coverage Of May 9 Mercury Transit Of The Sun

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

May 3, 2016 – NASA is inviting viewers around the world to see a relatively rare celestial event, with coverage of the Monday, May 9 transit of the sun by the planet Mercury.

Mercury passes between Earth and the sun only about 13 times a century, its last trek taking place in 2006. Due to its diminutive size, viewing this event safely requires a telescope or high-powered binoculars fitted with solar filters made of specially-coated glass or Mylar.

NASA is offering several avenues for the public to view the event without specialized and costly equipment, including images on NASA.gov, a one-hour NASA Television special, and social media coverage.

Mercury will appear as a small black dot as it crosses the edge of the sun and into view at 5:12 a.m. MDT. The planet will make a leisurely journey across the face of the sun, reaching mid-point at approximately 8:47 a.m., and exiting the golden disk at 12:42 p.m. The entire 7.5-hour path across the sun will be visible across the Eastern United States – with magnification and proper solar filters – while those in the West can observe the transit in progress after sunrise.

Images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will be posted at:

http://www.nasa.gov/transit

NASA also will stream a live program on NASA TV and the agency’s Facebook page from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. MDT — an informal roundtable during which experts representing planetary, heliophysics and astrophysics will discuss the science behind the Mercury transit. Viewers can ask questions via Facebook and Twitter using #AskNASA.

Roundtable participants include:

  • Jim Green, planetary science director at NASA Headquarters in Washington

  • Lika Guhathakurta, heliophysics program scientist at NASA Headquarters

  • Nicky Fox, project scientist for the Solar Probe Plus mission at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland

  • Doug Hudgins, Exoplanet Exploration Program scientist at NASA Headquarters

  • To view a NASA ScienceCast video on the rare opportunity the Mercury transit poses for professional astronomers and backyard sky watchers alike, go to:

    http://youtu.be/wbkrlHDKvgE