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NASA Tips: How To Safely Watch the Mercury Transit

May 08, 2016 01:01 PM EDT

The anticipated Mercury transit is about to happen, and the whole world awaits the rare celestial event which seldom occurs in a century. But amidst the excitement, NASA reminds spectators to safeguard their eyes when watching the cosmic display.

On May 9 the planet Mercury will pass or "transit" directly between the Sun and the Earth and it will be seen in Western Europe, some parts of South and North America and North and West Africa.

This cosmic display is very rare that it only happens 13 times in a century. Today's generation is beyond fortunate to witness this event. The NASA Godard Space Flight Center explains that this happens when the Earth's orbital plane directly crosses with Mercury. The result is a rare cosmic show with the visible tiny planet which will look like a dot gradually crossing the Sun as its backdrop.

It will be visible to the naked eye, but looking straight at the sun might damage a person's eyesight.

"Looking at the sun directly or through a telescope without proper protection can lead to serious and permanent vision damage. Do not look directly at the sun without a solar filter" said NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

NASA is worried that the spectators might get overly excited and forget how risky is the sun for the naked eye. In order to enjoy and properly transit, JPL reminded the people of some safety steps you can take.

JPL recommends using a solar telescope in observing the event; a solar filter; or a binocular. JPL suggests using NASA's program to find transit-watching site near respective areas. Other ways of viewing the transit include joining local astronomers in your area who might have protective gears to help you watch the transit, or watching the live broadcast from this website.

To enjoy the spectacular show, with knowledgeable annotations by NASA scientists, everyone can also watch the live stream from NASA TV on May 9 at exactly 4:12 a.m. PDT. The transit will take about seven and a half hours to be completed, providing ample time for viewers in the West Coast to enjoy the view.


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