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Transit of Mercury 2016: Watch it live, right here


Monday, May 9, marks the first transit of Mercury in a decade, and you can watch it live, right here.

The live feed, put together by the editors of Sky and Telescope, begins at 4 a.m. Pacific and continues until noon. The actual transit -- when the small black dot of Mercury starts to traverse the bright face of the sun -- begins at 4:12 a.m. Pacific, and ends at 11:42 a.m.

Mercury's orbit takes it between Earth and the sun about once every four months, but it usually winds up a little north or south of the sun from our perspective.

Transits occur only when a planet is directly in front of the sun. For Mercury, they happen about 13 or 14 times a century. For Venus, the only other planet in our solar system that appears to transit the sun from telescopes on Earth, that number is even smaller -- about 3 per century.

The transit of Mercury is not visible to the naked eye. Even if you have those special eclipse sunglasses that allow you to safely look at the sun, Mercury will appear so small that you won't be able to make it out without some magnification.

That makes Monday's event a pretty good one to watch online. If the Sky and Telescope feed at the top of this post doesn't float your boat, you've got options. 

You can also catch the show live on the astronomy website Slooh.com, or via live streams from the European Space Agency and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.  

However you choose to view this event, you might use it as an opportunity to marvel at Mercury's awesomeness. It's the smallest planet in our solar system and one of the most extreme. Its day lasts longer than its year, and there are parts of the planet that are 6 times hotter than any spot on Earth, as well as other parts that are twice as cold as the coldest places on Earth.

Happy viewing!

Do you love science? I do! Follow me @DeborahNetburn and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.

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