Science + Technology

See Mercury from UCLA on May 9. Your next chance will be November 2019

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Mercury NASA image
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Viewers can see our solar system’s smallest planet as it passes in front of the sun, from 7:30 a.m. until 10:42 a.m. local time.

If you’ve never seen the planet Mercury, here’s your last best chance until 2019.

Scientists from UCLA’s Institute for Planets and Exoplanets will offer free views of our solar system’s smallest planet through specially equipped telescopes on the morning of Monday, May 9.

Mercury will be 52 million miles away, directly between the Earth and the sun — which astronomers refer to as a transit. Only 3,000 miles in diameter, Mercury will be visible as a small black disk crossing the sun, which is 865,000 miles in diameter.

For viewers in California, the transit will begin before sunrise and will end at 11:42 a.m. The UCLA telescopes will be stationed next to the Shapiro Fountain (map, in between Royce Hall and Powell Library, from 7:30 a.m. until the transit ends.

According to UCLA astrophysicist David Jewitt, the next chance to see Mercury in transit is expected to be Nov. 11, 2019, and the upcoming transit will be one of just 14 this century. Jewitt cautions that looking at the sun, with or without the aid of a telescope, could cause permanent blindness if proper eye protection is not used. 

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