Mercury in transit

The Wheaton College Observatory will open on Monday, May 9, to allow students and members of the public to witness a relatively rare occurrence–the passage of Mercury across the face of the sun.

Called a transit of Mercury, the event occurs every 13 to 14 years when Mercury’s orbit brings the small planet directly between our planet and the sun. The event allows observers on Earth to watch Mercury, visible as a small dot, as it makes it transits the sun.

“Transits are great fun to watch,” said Dipankar Maitra, an assistant professor of astronomy at Wheaton. “They give us a chance to ‘see’ the motion of celestial bodies. Mercury’s transit happens slowly, but if you are patient, you can see the planet’s progress in front of the Sun’s disc.”

Wheaton’s observatory, which is located on the roof of the Mars Center for Science and Technology, is equipped with a variety of telescopes that are outfitted with solar filters that make it possible to watch the event safely.

Mercury’s transit will begin at 7:12 a.m. and end at 2:42 p.m. ET. The observatory will be open for the entire event, unless inclement weather makes it impossible to watch the event.

Before heading to the observatory, please check its open house web page for the latest information on this event as well as for directions to the observatory.