MONTREAL – Stargazers and solar system lovers are looking up into the sky Monday as Mercury eclipses the sun between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. for the first time since 2006.
Here are five things you need to know if you want to view the closest planet to our star:
Get a telescope
Don’t try to see Mercury with the naked eye – the planet is 1/158th the size of the sun.
“It’s so little it won’t block the light, so it would be exactly like looking directly at the sun,” said Loïc Quesnel with the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium.
“We’d burn our eyes in a matter of seconds.”
Looking at the planet through a telescope with a solar lens can help astronomers measure the distance between the planet and other celestial bodies.
A rare occurrence
Mercury passes between the sun and the Earth 13 times every century.
The next eclipse will take place in 2019, and after that, you’ll have to wait until 2032.
All about alignment
The Earth, Mercury and the sun need to be perfectly aligned for the eclipse to be visible from our planet.
Mercury’s orbit is inclined by about seven degrees compared to the Earth, so there’s only two locations on the trajectories where they could possibly align.
WATCH BELOW: Discovering Mercury
Don’t forget Venus
There are only two planets between the sun and the Earth: Mercury and Venus.
While eclipses of Mercury are rare, it’s even more so for Venus.
Since the invention of the telescope in the 1600s, the Venus eclipse has only been viewed eight times.