About 13 times a century, the planet closest to the Sun moves between Earth and our star, treating us as a rare transit event. Your next chance to experience this astronomical miracle is Monday, November 1
Why are these Mercury Transits so rare? It has to do with the highly eccentric orbit of the planet and how it meshes with Earth's orbit. Mercury's distance from the Sun can be very different, and its orbit has a slope of 7 degrees compared to ours. That means we three do not do that often.
Transit is visible to a large part of the world, including most of North America, South America, Europe and Africa. Excuse me, Australia, you will not be able to witness it in person.
If you want to stay up-to-date on this cosmic event, watch this NASA Mercury Transit 2016 video.
Mercury will begin the celebrations at 4:35 am. However, do not set your alarm too early if you are on the US West Coast. You have to wait for the sun to rise before the transit becomes visible.
Mercury will take a sweet time and stroll over the face of the sun: the transit will take about 5.5 hours.
Tools of Transit
Important: Do not look into the sun with your naked eye. You need the right equipment to see the transit.
Mercury appears as a dainty dark spot that moves across the sun, so your regular eclipse lenses do not work here. "Since mercury is so small in our view on Earth, you need binoculars or a telescope with a sun filter to see it," says NASA.
However, you can not just tap on your eclipse glasses and then hold up your binoculars. The space agency warns: "Do not combine sun and eclipse glasses with binoculars – they can damage your eyes!" This can cause the sun film in the glasses to melt. So do not cook your eyeballs.
If you do not have the equipment (or astronomy buddy with the equipment), look for a transit party in your area. Astronomy clubs and museums are probably places. Read the searchable NASA Club and Event Guide to find local space fans.
Your view of the transit also depends on the weather. We hope for clear sky. If you can not access the right equipment or if clouds threaten to ruin your Mercury ad, look for the next best option online.
Watch the Transit live online You can relax at home or in the office and enjoy a live event. The Virtual Telescope Project offers an on-line viewing session starting at 4.30pm.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory team will release an almost live version of the transit based on SDO images.
Originally published on November 7th.