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Mercury is about to make a rare journey across the face of the sun

illustration of timing of Mercury transit

For seven hours on May 9, Mercury will appear as a small dot traveling across the face of the sun. In the illustration above, Mercury is shown approximately to scale with the sun.

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The planet Mercury is about to throw some shade at Earth.

For about seven hours on Monday, May 9, the innermost planet will trek across the face of the sun and cast a shadow on our planet. During its journey, a rare event known as a transit, Mercury will appear as a tiny black speck on the sun. The transit will begin at 7:12 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time and end at 2:42 p.m. It will be visible from most countries, though folks in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and islands in the West Pacific are out of luck.

Transits of Mercury happen on average about eight times a century and only in May or November. The last one was in 2006; the next one won’t be until 2019.

Don’t stare at the sun to try and see it. Seriously. Don’t do that. Staring at the sun is dangerous. Plus, Mercury is tiny. A solar-filtered telescope with at least 50x magnification is the best and safest way to enjoy the show. Many astronomy clubs and organizations will have viewing events. And there will be many ways to see it online such as NASA TV, the Virtual Telescope Project and the Slooh Observatory

Plants,, Genetics

Venus flytraps use defensive genes for predation

By Helen Thompson 4:21pm, May 5, 2016
Genetic analysis suggests that Venus flytraps repurposed plant defenses against herbivores to live the carnivore life.
Animals,, Genetics

Why Labrador retrievers are obsessed with food

By Helen Thompson 1:53pm, May 4, 2016
A genetic variant could explain obesity trends seen in Labrador retrievers.
Animals,, Evolution

Male giant water bugs win females by babysitting

By Susan Milius 7:05pm, May 3, 2016
Female giant water bugs prefer males already caring for eggs, an evolutionary force for maintaining parental care.
Particle Physics,, Science & Society

A weasel has shut down the Large Hadron Collider

By Helen Thompson 2:00pm, April 29, 2016
A tiny furball brought Earth’s most powerful particle accelerator to its knees this morning.
Health,, Microbiology

This week in Zika: Haiti hit early, possible monkey hosts, and more

By Meghan Rosen 12:54pm, April 29, 2016
A new test for Zika, how Haiti fits into the outbreak timeline, a look at monkeys that can carry the virus, and more in this week’s Zika Watch.
Astronomy

Japan’s latest X-ray telescope is officially dead

By Christopher Crockett 6:51pm, April 28, 2016
The Japanese space agency has officially declared its latest X-ray telescope a loss.
Plants

Nightshade plants bleed sugar as a call to ants for backup

By Helen Thompson 4:08pm, April 28, 2016
Bittersweet nightshade produces sugary wound goo to lure in ant protectors that eat herbivores, researchers have found.
Planetary Science

Hubble telescope finds small moon orbiting dwarf planet Makemake

By Christopher Crockett 11:31am, April 27, 2016
Hubble Space Telescope images from April 2015 show that the dwarf planet Makemake has a tiny moon.
Science & Society,, Neuroscience

Findings on wobbly memories questioned

By Laura Sanders 3:00pm, April 25, 2016
In contrast to older studies, new results suggest that new memories don’t interfere with older, similar ones.
Plants,, Epigenetics,, Cells

Plants might remember with prions

By Susan Milius 3:00pm, April 25, 2016
A plant protein has passed lab tests for prionlike powers as molecular memory.
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