Mercury makes rare transit of the sun today

You can get a rare view of Mercury as it crosses in front of the sun today.

Mercury begins making its way across the face of the sun at 7:12 a.m. ET and will complete its crossing at 2:42 p.m. ET, moving from east to west.

It's not safe the view the event without proper solar filters, but solar-filter telescopes will be available at public observation events held across the country by astronomy clubs, observatories and universities. Mercury is so small that it's unlikely to be visible without binoculars or a telescope (equipped with solar filters, of course).

For those who can't make it to one of those events, CBC News will be streaming a live NASA broadcast, with commentary from experts, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ET.

The event will also be streamed online starting 7 a.m. ET by Slooh, an organization that broadcasts celestial events online from telescopes around the world.

Mercury Sun

Transits of Mercury happen only about 13 times a century — the last was in 2006 — and Canada isn't always as well-placed to see the entire event as it is this time. (NASA)

Transits of Mercury happen only about 13 times a century — the last was in 2006 — and Canada isn't always as well-placed to see the entire event as it is this time. The next will be in 2019, but after that, there won't be another daytime Mercury transit viewable from Canada until 2049.

Not only are Mercury transits rare, but they're also some of the best opportunities to see the closest planet to the sun. Typically, it's tricky to observe even at night, because it's only ever visible near the horizon close to dawn or dusk, and you need to know where to look.

Mercury orbits the sun every 88 days, but isn't visible every time it passes between the Earth and the sun because Earth's and Mercury's orbits are tilted relative to each other. That means Mercury often appears above or below the sun when viewed from Earth.

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