CLUTE — Residents will have an incredible opportunity to see Mercury pass in front of the sun Monday morning if the weather allows.

There will be a “mini-event” at The Center for the Arts and Sciences for those hoping to see it, since it will only be visible at about 9:15 a.m., BASF Planetarium Director Judi James said.

Mercury will be directly between Earth and the sun, creating a black dot in the center of the sun that will not be visible to the naked eye, James said. Viewers will see the night side of Mercury, which appears to be a black dot inside the yellow sun, she said. There are no sun spots, so if you saw it, you’d know it has to be Mercury, James said.

“This is a rare event,” she said. It will not be viewable again from the continental U.S. until 2049.

And it’ll only be visible if the sky is clear, which is not forecast right now, James said.

“We have to actually see the sun to be able to see this,” she said.

Even if conditions are ideal, it is “totally unsafe to look at the sun directly,” James said.

“We will have zero equipment to look at the sun directly, which is dangerous,” she said.

The planetarium will have telescopes with a filter that allow for safe solar viewing, James said, adding only a tiny bit of sunlight will come in.

People should consider attending the free event because it’s just such a rare occurrence, center Executive Director Wes Copeland said.

“What’s great is that you can safely watch a planet go in front of our star, in front of the sun,” Copeland said.

The event takes all the things students learn about in school, including the solar system and orbiting planets, and they can see it in as real time as the speed of light will allow, Copeland said.

“So that’s pretty exciting,” he said. “To do it safely and learn even more about the mechanics of all of that with Judi and the volunteers will expand and enrich the experience.”

But even with their technology, they can’t get past the clouds, Copeland said.

The viewing materials will be in the parking lot of The Center, 400 College Blvd. in Clute.

Maddy McCarty is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0151.

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