Have you always wanted to watch Mercury pass between you and the sun? Well, today’s your lucky day! This only happens thirteen times a century, which is about every 7.6 years. Scientists are pretty excited about this one, because they have now developed more accurate tools to study the planet during this time. They’ll be working toward a better understanding of the sodium in its exosphere—the thin layer of surrounding gases—and how we can use what we learn from this phenomenon to discover planets that orbit other stars.
I can appreciate the push for scientific advancement and the desire to drum up excitement about space, but every 7.6 years doesn’t seem that rare. I’ve eaten granola bars that old. I already owned half of my current wardrobe the last time Mercury flew by us this way. And at that moment, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was topping the charts. It seems like just yesterday, and not because yesterday I was breaking out my best hand-flip moves to that jam in my living room.
Nevertheless, I’ll be staring directly at the Sun at least a few times between 8am and 2pm to try and catch a peek of the smallest planet in our solar system. (Sorry, Pluto-lovers, Mercury has claimed the title.) I don’t have one of those cardboard boxes we all made in elementary school, so I’ll just have to take the chance of being blinded. I practice high risk, high reward astronomy.