Qatar residents invited to watch the rare Transit of Mercury at Katara

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center  SDO | Genna Duberstein via AP

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center SDO | Genna Duberstein via AP

The transit ends at 11:04 a.m., when Mercury finishes crossing the sun and disappears from view.

Mercury will put on a rare celestial show Monday, parading across the sun in view of most of the world. From here on Earth, that means we'll see a little black spot slowly crossing the disc of the Sun.

Its full path across the sun will take 5 1/2 hours. When measuring the brightness of far-off stars, a slight recurring dip in the light curve (a graph of light intensity) could indicate an exoplanet orbiting and transiting its star.

Mercury's next transit isn't until 2032, and North America won't get another viewing opportunity until 2049.

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Unlike its 2016 transit, Mercury will score a near bull's-eye this time, passing practically dead center in front of our star.

The Curiosity rover on Mars observed the planet Mercury transiting the Sun in 2014, the first time a planetary transit was seen from a celestial body other than the Earth. On an average, there will be 13 or 14 transits of Mercury each century. the first transit was seen in 1631, nearly 20 years after the invention of the telescope by French astronomer Pierre Gassendi. Edmund Halley used a transit of Venus in 1761 and 1769 to determine the absolute distance to the sun. This could be done by having observers at distant points on Earth look at the variation in a planet's apparent position against the disk of the Sun - a phenomenon known as parallax shift.

Numerous thousands of exoplanets we've been finding around other stars were discovered when they transited the face of their suns, mostly by the Kepler spacecraft.

First things first, NASA is reminding the public that it is very unsafe to look directly at the Sun - doing so puts the person at risk of permanent vision damage. But remember, don't look directly at Mr. Sun.

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The transit of Mercury will be partly or fully visible across much of the globe. See the transit map below to learn when and where the transit will be visible.

However, some binos and scopes have filters on the front that block out enough sunlight that you can safely look through them, including the solar telescopes at Science North.

NASA will broadcast the transit as seen from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, with only a brief lag.

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