Beginning at about 7 AM EDT on this coming Monday — and lasting until after 2 PM EDT — tiny, hot metallic Mercury will (from our vantage point here on Earth) pass directly in front of the solar disk. This is called a “transit” — and because Mercury’s orbital plane is shifted by about a 20 degree angle, relative to our orbital plane — seeing Mercury slide in front of the Sun happens only about 13 times in a century, in Earth-time.
The last such Mercury transit occurred in 2006. [I’ve faintly labeled each celestial body, at right with its symbol — from various cultures, in antiquity. Perhaps fittingly, given what falls tomorrow, some cultures viewed the Sun as a mother, to us all.]
Here’s a bit of the space science — from NASA.gov — but in antiquity, such events were considered omens — from the celestial rulers of our Universe. Will Monday bring something new — and profoundly sublime — to all our lives? We shall see:
. . . .The May 9 Mercury transit will occur between about 7:12 a.m. and 2:42 p.m. EDT. Mercury is too small to see without magnification, but it can be seen with a telescope or binoculars. These must be outfitted with a solar filter as you can’t safely look at the sun directly.
“Astronomers get excited when any two things come close to each other in the heavens,” said Louis Mayo, program manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is a big deal for us.”
Mercury transits have been key to helping astronomers throughout history: In 1631, astronomers first observed a Mercury transit. Those observations allowed astronomers to measure the apparent size of Mercury’s disk, as well as help them estimate the distance from Earth to the sun. . . .
Of course, you should not try to look directly into the Sun on Monday — to see it. Use NASA’s webcast as a safe (and often jaw-slacking) alternative. I just thought the readership might want to know.
And the last time a Mercury transit occurred, I had lost touch with my own shepherd satellite, for some years. . . But no longer. Smile. So, Happy Mothers’ Day tomorrow, to all the lovely moms out there. You know who you are — and know that the celestial mother of us all salutes you, come Monday morning. . . . Onward!