Mercury made a relatively rare trip across the face of the sun today.
The smallest planet in our solar system took about seven hours to complete the transit, and appeared as a tiny black dot against the sun as it did so.
This transit was visible here on Earth because our orbit is in line with Mercury’s right now.
This alignment, and therefore the visible transit of Mercury occur roughly every 10 years. The last visible transit occurred in 2006.
David Hanes, a Professor of Physics at Queen’s University says that events like this can help us learn more about the galaxy.
“The really interesting thing about these transits is that it reminds us of one of the ways we have of discovering planets that are around other stars. If we look at a star in the night sky, and discover that it dims down slightly for a short period, and that happens again and again, that’s probably a sign that there’s a planet orbiting around that star, and every so often it passes across the face of the star.”
LISTEN to the full interview with David Hanes
The transit was not visible without a telescope or binoculars, but NASA live streamed the event on their website. They’ve posted a time-lapse video to their Instagram page.
Today's #MercuryTransit in full from our Solar Dynamics Observatory: For more than seven hours today, Mercury was visible as a tiny black dot crossing the face of the sun. This rare event – which happens only slightly more than once a decade – is called a transit. The 2016 Mercury transit occurred on May 9th, between about 7:12 a.m. and 2:42 p.m. EDT. Transits provide a great opportunity to study the way planets and stars move in space– information that has been used throughout the ages to better understand the solar system and which still helps scientists today calibrate their instruments. Although Mercury whips around the sun every 88 days – over four times faster than Earth – the three bodies rarely align. Because Mercury orbits in a plane 7 degrees tilted from Earth’s orbit, it usually darts above or below our line of sight to the sun. As a result, a Mercury transit happens only about 13 times a century. The last one was in 2006, and the next one isn’t until 2019. Credit: NASA/SDO #nasa #space #astronomy #science #mercurytransit #solar #sun #mercury #solarsystem #planet #planets #orbit #shadow