Boise State University

Boise State invites you to see rare view of Mercury

An image of Mercury shot by the Messenger mission in 2015.
An image of Mercury shot by the Messenger mission in 2015.

The planet Mercury will make its rare transit between the Earth and Sun on Monday, and will be visible as a tiny dark spot on the Sun’s face.

Mercury won’t make another trip like this until 2019. The good news: Boise State’s Physics Department will host a viewing event from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the plaza next to the physics building, also known as the Multi-Purpose Classroom Building.

Professor Brian Jackson said the department will have telescopes set up so people can see the celestial rarity. The telescopes will be equipped with Sun-safe filters and “eclipse shades.”

According to Jackson’s blog, the transit will have already begun in the Pacific Northwest by sunrise, but will continue into the early afternoon. Mercury and Venus, the only solar system planets that lie between the Earth and the Sun, are the only planets whose transits are visible from Earth.

“Planetary transits have long played a central role in astronomy,” said Jackson. “The transit of Venus observed in the 1600s revealed the vast scale of our solar system, and today, transits of extrasolar planets observed by the Kepler spacecraft have shown that our universe is brimming over with billions upon billions of planets.”

The university will also project a live feed of the transit from the NASA website in the lobby of the physics building.

Keep up with more cool space happenings in May and beyond at space.com.

At IdahoStatesman.com: Read a December, 2015 article about the physics department and Jackson’s participation in PonyUp, the Boise State crowdfunding program that helped raise money to rehab the university’s observatory to make more public events possible.

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