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How and When to Watch Mercury's Last Transit of the Sun to 2032

NASA created this enhanced view of Mercury using images from the Messenger mission.

NASA Applied Physics Laboratory / Johns Hopkins / Carnegie Institution, Washington

About 13 times every century, the closest planet to the Sun passes between Earth and our star, treating us to a rare transit event. Your next chance to catch this astronomical miracle is on November 1

1th. This will not happen again until 2032.

Why are these mercury transits so rare? It has to do with the planet's highly eccentric orbit and how it relates to the Earth's orbit. Mercury's distance from the sun can vary quite a bit, and its orbit has an inclination of 7 degrees compared to ours. This means that the three do not line up very often.

Transit will be visible to most of the globe, including most of North America, South America, Europe and Africa. Unfortunately, Australia, you won't be able to see it in person.

If you would like to be reminded of this space event, watch this video by NASA for Mercury Transit in 2016.

Transit Time

Mercury will launch the festivities at 4:35 AM PT. Don't set your alarm too early if you're on the West Coast, though. You will have to wait for the sun to rise before the transit is seen.

Mercury will spend its sweet time walking around in the sun: Transit will take about 5.5 hours.

Transit tools

Important: Don't look at the sun with your naked eye. You will need the right equipment to see the transit.

Mercury appears as a dark dark spot moving in the sun, so your ordinary sunglasses will not work here. "Because Mercury is so small from our Earth's viewpoint, you will need binoculars or a solar filter telescope to see it," NASA says.

However, you can't just hit the sunglasses and then hold your binoculars. The Space Agency warns: "Do not combine sunglasses / blackout goggles with binoculars. You can severely damage your eyes!" This can cause the solar film to melt in your glasses, so do not cook your eyeballs.

If you do not have instruments (or an astronomical friend with the gear), then look for a transit party to watch in your area. Astronomical clubs and museums are likely. Check out NASA's Club and Event Search Guide to find local space fans.

Your vision of transit will also depend on the weather. Here's hoping for a clear sky. If you can't access the right equipment, or if the clouds threaten to ruin your viewing of Mercury, then head online for the next best thing.

Watch Live Transit Online

Another way to capture transit action is to return to your home or office and enjoy a live event. The Virtual Telescope Project will offer an online monitoring session beginning at 4:30 pm PT.

The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory team will share an almost up-to-date version of transit using SDO images.

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