How To Watch The 2016 Transit Of Mercury Right Now, Because It Won't Happen Again For A While
All right, astronomy lovers, you're in luck! If you're reading this post before 2:42 p.m. EST, you can watch Mercury in transit right now. This is a super rare occurrence; it hasn't happened since 2006, and it isn't predicted to happen again until Nov. 11, 2019 (which, as a heads up, is a pretty neat way to celebrate Veteran's Day). And after that, you'll have to wait until 2032 for the next one to come around. So, don't miss seeing Mercury transit the sun, because it'll be a while before you can see it again if you do.
Basically, when Mercury transits the sun, you'll see a little black dot over the sun that slowly, slowly moves until it disappears. And don't worry, this isn't the sort of astronomy where you squint really hard and pretend you can see a figure out of the stars while you're camping with your parents — this is real, I-seriously-see-planets-moving astronomy, which happens once in a blue moon. (Ha.)
So, how can you see today's Mercury transit? Well, it's technically already begun. Mercury's transit began around 11:12 Universal Time (which is 7:12 a.m. EST if you, like me, are in the Eastern part of the United States) and slowly moves across the sun, appearing as a tiny black dot to us on Earth, until 2:42 p.m EST. This phenomena lasts about seven and a half hours, and is technically visible to the naked eye, but you should not stare directly into the sun.
I repeat: If you want to view Mercury transit the Sun today, please don't stare at it with your bare eyes. It can cause serious damage to your eyes, even though it looks really, really cool. Use a pair of binoculars or a telescope! You can attend fun viewing parties to watch Mercury transit the sun with fellow space-nerds (if I was better at planning, I'd totally be there myself) such as at your local Space and Science Museum or college campus. And if you want to watch it live from the comfort of your own home or office, check out one of the streams below!
You can view the livestream of Mercury's transit between the Sun and the Earth for free, right now, over at Sloosh.com.
You can also view a livesteam of Mercury's transit today from NASA's livestream, which includes educational Q&A's on their website.