9 May 2016

New York Today: Mercury on the Move

Updated, 7:34 a.m.

Greetings, earthlings, on this blustery Monday.

Look up, New York: Mercury is traversing the sun this morning.

Astronomers refer to this as the Mercury transit, and it will continue until 2:42 p.m.

The last time Mercury zipped across the sun was in 2006, and it won’t happen again for another decade or two, saidJason Kendall, a professor of astronomy and physics at William Paterson University who is a board member at the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York.

“These are very rare events, and it’s even more rare that we get to watch the whole thing,” he said. “The next one might be visible, but it surely won’t be visible from New York.”

It’s a strange, mysterious world on Mercury.

It’s the innermost planet in our solar system — that is, the closest to the sun — and has no atmosphere. Its temperature can swing from 800 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 200 at night, Professor Kendall said.

Enormous volcanoes erupted across its surface billions of years ago, yet the icy craters at the north pole of Mercury, where the sun never shines, are some of the coldest places in the solar system, he added.

During today’s transit, Mercury will look like a moving freckle on the sun.

But don’t stare straight at it with sunglasses or binoculars: You’ll need the help of a solar telescope, which Professor Kendall and other astronomers have set up across the city.
Source - nytimes

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