The closest planet to the sun in our solar system, Mercury moved across the giant star earlier Monday, making it visible with a telescope. The event happens about once every decade.
To those lucky enough to see it, Mercury appeared simply as a small black dot in front of the massive star. And though it’s moving fast, any change would be indiscernible to the human eye; the visible part of the transit only about seven hours.
David Targan, director of the Ladd Observatory at Brown University, says though Mercury doesn’t spark the same excitement of closer and brighter, Mars or Venus, it’s still an important planet.
“I mean it’s hard to see through a telescope, and it’s a small planet,” said Targan. “In some ways it looks a lot like the moon, but all of these planets tell us something about the formation of the solar system, which includes, ultimately, the formation of life.”
Director of the Ladd Observatory at Brown University, David Targan, says if you missed Mercury’s transit across the sun, there are still plenty of events in the sky to watch out for.
“Some of them are very predictable, like this one,” said Targan. “Others, like comets that appear are hard to predict. There’s just a lot going on up there, and for us, all the different phenomena gives us a sense of our place in the universe.”
Targan says most scientists did not observe Mercury’s transit across the sun to gather data; space probes have already gotten far closer to the small planet.