On Monday, something big happened in outer space. The solar system's smallest planet went for a ride, and the whole world was able to watch. Specifically, you could see the planet Mercury pass before the Sun. Now, Mercury didn't actually go anywhere new. Rather, because of it and Earth's respective positions in their orbits, Mercury came between us and the Sun, making it appear as though it were moving along the sun's surface. Weren't able to tune in? Here's how to watch the Transit of Mercury a day later.
The whole thing was documented live with images from telescopes around the world, and it was livestreamed for about 7.5 hours. The event began at around 7:12 a.m. EST and finished at about 2:42 p.m. The entire event was visible from much of Europe and North America — only Australia and parts of Eastern Asia were shut out completely. No matter where you are now, though, you can watch the coverage and see what the fuss was all about.
Slooh, a group that collects images from lots of different telescopes around the world, has uploaded their coverage to YouTube. Take in the eight-hour glory, if you'd like. If you're looking for a highlights reel, one of the best views was from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. They put together a time lapse video of the event which you can also watch on YouTube, and the results are mesmerizing.
This phenomenon only happens about 13 times a century, and it offers scientists at NASA the opportunity to study some details about Mercury. Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science, said they would have their telescopes pointed at the planet's edge — where its shape ends and Sun starts to shine past. "It’s that location where we will see the very tenuous atmosphere of Mercury called an exosphere,” Green told The New York Times. They want to study the amount of sodium it releases.
On a more relatable level, Green said that the transit is pretty "fantastic":
It’s one of those things that allow us to keep learning and discovering things not only in our solar system but also in the galaxy.
It might be a while before the big-time scientific papers on any findings from this transit are released, but don't miss the gorgeous videos in the meantime. You'll be amazed by the wonders of the universe.