How To Watch Mercury Transit Across The Sun (No, You Can’t Just Stare At The Sun)

If Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus were a real person, she’d be very excited about today. Space Camp graduates and current astronomy majors are probably losing their shit too. Here’s how to watch Mercury’s transit today, because it’s going to be a very cool.

So, what exactly is happening? Basically, we’ll be able to see the small planet as it travels across the Sun. According to The Guardian:

Mercury usually swings too high or too low for it to cast a shadow on the Earth, and so be visible on the sun’s disc. The next chance to catch the transit is in 2019… Only Mercury, the first rock from the sun, and Venus, the second, can be seen wandering across the sun from Earth, the third rock from the sun.”

This obviously reminds me of the sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun (circa late ’90s, early 2000s) with John Lithgow and little baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

But I digress. Back to science!

How can you watch? First of all, please take all safety precautions as advised by NASA.

Don’t have a spare “solar filter made of specially-coated glass?” Me either. That’s probably not in your budget, so you should try to go somewhere that has one. Look to see if any astronomers at observatories or universities close to you are holding a public event of some kind that you could attend.

If you’re stuck at work, there’s always the internet. Many websites are streaming it live, such as Slooh: Space For Everyone.

Here’s the live feed from the telescopes of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich via YouTube.

And you should probably act now! The window to see the rare event is from about 7:00 AM to 2:45 PM ET. The best time to watch would be around noon, when it’ll be the most center. Can’t escape work quick yet? No worries, you’ve still got some time to see — and you’ll want to because this will be truly special.

Despite how cool we find it today, back when this happened in the early 1900s, people were disappointed to say the least. That is, according to this excerpt from The Manchester Guardian, when they covered Mercury’s transit back in November 1907:

Screen shot 2016-05-09 at 11.01.32 AM
CREDIT: The Guardian

Sure, YouTube ads are annoying AF, but on days like this, I’m reminded to take advantage of all these free resources we have — well, free with your monthly wifi bill or the purchase of a drink at Starbucks.

I say, at least take your lunch break outside today. Look up from your phone and watch something rare and let your inner space geek flag fly! I wonder if Lance Bass still gets jazzed about things like this, since he wanted to go into space and all.