Mercury to appear as tiny black dot in rare 'transit' across sun

During the transit Mercury will look like a tiny black dot gliding across the Sun's face

During the transit Mercury will look like a tiny black dot gliding across the Sun's face

A screen-shot of the video shared by NASA.

Mercury will move across the sun's face and several spacecraft will have their sights set on the rare event. According to NASA, this transit only takes place around 13 times every century; the next pass won't happen until the year 2032.

Skywatchers should look for Mercury's tiny disk, jet black and perfectly round, covering just a fraction of the sun's blinding surface.

The transit will begin at 6:35AM CST / 7:35AM EST, though some people will be forced to wait for the Sun to rise in their time zone before they can see it; in these cases, the transit won't be visible until after it has already started.

Japan's Hinode spacecraft captured this image of Mercury passing in front of the sun on November 8, 2006, using the spacecraft's Solar Optical Telescope instrument.

"Viewing transits and eclipses provide opportunities to engage the public, to encourage one and all to experience the wonders of the universe and to appreciate how precisely science and mathematics can predict celestial events", Mitzi Adams, a solar scientist at Nasa, said in blog post on Friday.

"Never look at the Sun directly or through a telescope without proper protection".

Readers are reminded that staring at the sun or trying to view it with telescopic equipment can seriously damage the eyes or cause blindness.

Edmund Halley used a transit of Venus in 1761 and 1769 to determine the absolute distance to the Sun.

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