The planet Mercury will pass directly between the Earth and Sun on the morning of Monday, May 9. This marks the first “transit of Mercury” since 2006. This unique event will repeat itself in 2019.  After this, the next transit of Mercury visible from North America is not until 2049.

The Illinois State University Planetarium is offering a special program as a prelude to this rare event. The hour-long presentation will be at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7, under Illinois State University’s Planetarium dome. Discussions will include the history of and reason for transits, how to safely view the transit, and details regarding the May 9th event. The program is free and open to the public.

On Monday, May 9, the day of the Mercury transit, the Twin Cities Amateur Astronomers (TCAA) and Illinois State Planetarium will host a free public viewing session. The event will begin at 9 a.m. and run continuously until 1 p.m. at the Bloomington Parks & Recreation Department’s Tipton Park north unit, at East College Avenue and Airport Road. TCAA astronomers and Illinois State Planetarium staff will have special solar telescopes pointed toward Mercury allowing the public to safely view the transit.

The public viewing session will be cancelled in the event of an overcast sky. For more information, contact the Illinois State Planetarium at (309) 438-8756.