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Mercury’s solar crossing only occurs 13 times a century, and it’s happening today

And NASA is going to help you see it

The planet Mercury will pass between the Earth and the Sun on May 9th, marking a rare celestial event that occurs only 13 times a century. From Earth, the planet will look like a tiny black dot moving in a straight line across a portion of the Sun.

Mercury's solar crossing gets underway at 7:15AM ET

Mercury's solar crossing gets underway at 7:15AM ET time, but don't worry if you feel like sleeping in that day. It will take 7.5 hours for Mercury to pass in front of the Sun, so you can check in on the small planet's trek throughout the course of Monday. Things will finally wrap up at 2:42PM ET, when Mercury finally exits the solar disc.

The best view will be for those on the East Coast, as the transit will occur entirely during daytime. People on the West Coast can see it too — just not until the sun rises. And by "see," we do not condone looking directly at the Sun. You can view the event using telescopes or binoculars that are specially fitted with solar filters, but for those who don't have this type of equipment, NASA plans to cover the event by adding images on its website and various social media platforms. The space agency will also air a one-hour special of the transit on its NASA TV channel.

After Monday's transit, the next one is supposed to happen just three years from now in 2019. But after that, Mercury won't cross the Sun again until 2032. So it may be best to seize this transit-viewing opportunity now.

Update 8:34AM ET: This article has been updated to include a livestream from the robotic telescope Slooh's automated observatories.

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