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View today's transit of Mercury at the Powell Observatory

A rare look at Mercury crossing the face of the sun

On May 9, 2016 Mercury will move across the face of the sun, offering a rare viewing opportunity for professional astronomers and backyard sky watchers alike. The next time this event happens will be Nov. 11, 2019.
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On May 9, 2016 Mercury will move across the face of the sun, offering a rare viewing opportunity for professional astronomers and backyard sky watchers alike. The next time this event happens will be Nov. 11, 2019.

Powell Observatory in Louisburg, Kan., will open at 8 a.m. Monday so people can view the relatively rare transit of the planet Mercury across the face of the sun.

The public is invited to see the spectacle through filtered solar telescopes, as it is dangerous to look directly at the sun.

Mercury, the smallest planet in the solar system and the closest to the sun, will appear as a very small black dot during the 7  1/2 -hour transit. Powell Observatory will be open until 2 p.m., and short educational programs will be offered in the classroom on the hour from 9 a.m. to noon.

A $5 donation per person is requested. The observatory, owned by the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, is about 20 miles south of Overland Park. Go to the society’s website for a map.

NASA also will show portions of the transit at NASA TV and on the agency’s Facebook page. Images will be posted at www.nasa.gov/transit.

Mercury transits are relatively rare, occurring about 13 times a century. The next ones will be in November 2019 and November 2032.

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC

Mercury facts

▪ Mercury orbits the sun faster than any of the other seven planets, once every 88 Earth days.

▪ Mercury is a little bigger than Earth’s moon.

▪ Mariner 10 did a flyby of Mercury in 1974. Messenger began orbiting the planet in 2011.

Source: NASA

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