WASHINGTON — On Monday, a Mercury Transit occurred, as the planet glided perfectly across the surface of the sun. Powerful telescopes captured the planet movement as a small, black dot. It's a rare and spectacular sight, that scientists say only happens 13 times every century.
The Mercury Transit event lasted five-and-a-half hours. NASA says transits have been easy to predict for hundreds of years, but thanks to modern technology, we can finally fully appreciate the beauty.
"Every once in a while, the orbits align in a way and from the earth we can watch the planets cross in front of the sun," NASA Astrophysicist Dr. Pattie Boyd said.
Boyd said we are lucky to live in an age of powerful solar telescopes. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center utilized the SDO telescope to capture Monday's Mercury Transit.
NASA live streamed the phenomenon on their web site, as science clubs across the U.S. let the public use their professional telescopes, outfitted with powerful filters to protect eyes from the power of the sun.
"One of the most exciting things in connection to the Mercury Transit is that astronomers are using this exact technique, and we're watching planets passing other stars," Boyd said. "And we've discovered thousands of other planets."
NASA said it's gearing up to send the first woman to the moon in just a few years, as well as sending people to live on mars. Boyd said this makes it a possibility that some humans will be able to see an earth transit from the moon.
"The earth is huge in the sky from the moon, and when it passes in front of the sun, it's going to change the landscape dramatically," Boyd said. "I'm so excited for that in our lifetime. Astronauts are going to be able to see such an event from the surface of the moon."