NASA is inviting media and viewers around the world to see a relatively rare celestial event, with coverage of the Monday, May 9 transit of the sun by the planet Mercury. Media may view the event at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Agency scientists will be available at the Goddard viewing event for live media interviews from 6 to 11:30 a.m. EDT. To attend, media must contact Michelle Handleman at firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule an interview with a NASA scientist at the event, contact Claire Saravia,email@example.com.
Mercury passes between Earth and the sun only about 13 times a century, its last trek taking place in 2006. Due to its diminutive size, viewing this event safely requires a telescope or high-powered binoculars fitted with solar filters made of specially-coated glass or Mylar.
NASA is offering several avenues for the public to view the event without specialized and costly equipment, including images on NASA.gov, a one-hour NASA Television special, and social media coverage.
Mercury will appear as a small black dot as it crosses the edge of the sun and into view at 7:12 a.m. The planet will make a leisurely journey across the face of the sun, reaching mid-point at approximately 10:47 a.m., and exiting the golden disk at 2:42 p.m. The entire 7.5-hour path across the sun will be visible across the Eastern United States – with magnification and proper solar filters – while those in the West can observe the transit in progress after sunrise.
NASA also will stream a live program on NASA TV and the agency’s Facebook page from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. — an informal roundtable during which experts representing planetary, heliophysics and astrophysics will discuss the science behind the Mercury transit. Viewers can ask questions via Facebook and Twitter using #AskNASA.
Roundtable participants include: Jim Green, planetary science director at NASA Headquarters in Washington; Lika Guhathakurta, heliophysics program scientist at NASA Headquarters; Nicky Fox, project scientist for the Solar Probe Plus mission at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland and Doug Hudgins, Exoplanet Exploration Program scientist at NASA Headquarters.
To view a NASA ScienceCast video on the rare opportunity the Mercury transit poses for professional astronomers and backyard sky watchers alike, go to: http://youtu.be/wbkrlHDKvgE