Transit of Mercury – European Events and Media Contacts
May 3, 2016

Transit of Mercury – European Events and Media Contacts
Europlanet 2020 Press Release EPN PR16 /3
3 May 2016
For immediate release

A transit of Mercury will take place on 9th May 2016 from 11:12 UTC (12:12 BST/13:12 CEST) and ending at 18:42 UTC (19:42 BST/20:42 CEST).  During the transit, Mercury will appear as a small dot, 150th the diameter of the Sun, crossing the surface of the solar disc.  This is a relatively a rare event: the next transit will take place on 11th November 2019 and there will not then be another transit until 2032.

The whole transit will be visible from most of western Europe, South America and eastern North America. There will be partial visibility everywhere else except Australia and far eastern Asia. For a map showing the areas where the transit is visible, see:

Viewing the Transit

Observing the Sun can be dangerous and can damage your eyes or cause blindness.  Don’t look at the Sun directly with the naked eye, even through sunglasses or a welder’s mask. The transit of Mercury is too small to see without magnification, so cannot be viewed through ‘eclipse glasses’.

The transit can be viewed through a telescope that has been properly fitted with a solar filter, or through a purpose-built solar projector.  For full details on how to observe the transit safely, see the British Astronomical Association’s page on Observing the Transit of Mercury:

Online viewing
The European Space Agency (ESA) will web stream live images throughout the transit at:
Live images will also be broadcast via a live Google Hangout, which will be on air throughout the transit. For details, see:

Details of public observing events relating to the transit of Mercury can be found at
These can also be viewed on a map:

Social Media
For live updates during the transit, follow the hashtag: #mercurytransit
Share your selfies from Transit of Mercury observing events with the hashtag: #MercuryTransitSelfie

Animation introducing the Transit of Mercury by Europlanet 2020 RI:
The video can be downloaded in various resolutions here:

The Open University’s “Discover Mercury” series of videos include how to view the transit of Mercury safely, as well as features on the science and geology of Mercury and the MESSENGER and BepiColombo missions.
Introduction to the transit of Mercury and how to view it safely by the Society for Popular Astronomy.

Transit of Mercury Schools Challenge
The European Space Agency is challenging European school students to observe the transit and to recreate the measurements made by astronomers around 300 years ago in order to calculate the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

About Mercury
Mercury is the smallest terrestrial planet, and the closest to the Sun. As Mercury is at one end of the planetary chain, we need to determine its nature and origin if we wish to understand our Solar System. It has a more eccentric (non-circular) orbit than any other planet, being 46 million kilometres from the Sun at the closest point in its orbit (perihelion) but 70 million kilometres away at its furthest point (aphelion). The planet rotates slowly, exactly three time for every two orbits round the Sun which (bizarrely) results in its day being twice as long as its year (see: ). This slow rotation results in surface temperatures rising in excess of 400 °C in the daytime and dropping below -170 °C before dawn. However, because Mercury spins vertically on its axis, with no tilt relative to its orbit, the floors of some craters near the poles are in permanent shadow. This means that they are permanently cold and can shelter ice derived from comets impacting the surface.

Mercury is a dense planet, with an iron core that occupies a greater portion of its interior than in the case of the Earth. Mercury’s surface was formed almost entirely through volcanic processes. Most of its crust was formed by lava flows more than 3 billion years ago, and there are many volcanic vents where explosive volcanic eruptions have occurred. At least one of these is probably less than a billion years old.

Only two spacecraft have visited Mercury so far: NASA’s Mariner 10 made three flybys in 1974-5, and NASA’s MESSENGER orbited Mercury from March 2011 until April 2015. BepiColombo, a mission led by ESA in collaboration with the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), is due to launch in in 2018 and to arrive in 2024.

Science Contacts

The following points of contact are available for interview about the transit, Mercury and the BepiColombo mission:

ESA’s BepiColombo Mission
Dr Johannes Benkhoff
BepiColombo Project Scientist
ESA/ESTEC Science Support Office SRE-S
+31 71 5656510

Prof Wolfgang Baumjohann
Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften
Institut für Weltraumforschung
+43 664 3865347

Prof Juhani Huovelin
University of Helsinki
+358 50 5841449

Prof Karri Muinonen
University of Helsinki

Dr Alain Doressoundiram
Observatoire de Paris
+33 145077719

Dr Joern Helbert
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)
+49 30 67055-319

Prof Juergen Oberst
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)
+49 30 67055 336

Prof Ioannis Daglis
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Dr Menelaos Sarantos
NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre
Maryland, USA
+1-301 286 2945

Dr Valentina Galluzzi
INAF – Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali (IAPS)

Prof Luciano Iess
Dipartimento di ingegneria meccanica e aerospaziale
Università La Sapienza
+39 06 44585336

Dr Valeria Mangano
INAF – Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali (IAPS)
Mob: +39 334 9268929
Dr Mangaro is involved in Earth-based observations of Mercury.

Dr Anna Milillo
INAF – Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziale (IAPS)
+39 06 4993 4387

Dr. Roberto Peron
Experimental Gravitation Group
Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali (IAPS-INAF)
Mob: +39-347-3347207
Dr Peron can discuss the significance of the transit of Mercury for General Relativity and fundamental physics.

Dr Michel G. Breitfellner
European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC)
Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid
+34 91 8131110

Miguel Perez Ayucar
European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC)
Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid
+34 91 81 31 289

Santa Martinez
European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC)
Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid
+34 918 131 118

Prof Peter Wurz
Physikalisches Institut & Center for Space and Habitability
Universität Bern
+41 31 631 44 26

Prof David Rothery
The Open University
Milton Keynes
+44 7986260258

Dr Shoshana Z. Weider
Planetary geologist
Freelance science writer and editor
+44 (0) 775 3210 475
Dr Weider worked on NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury

Media Contact
Anita Heward
Europlanet Media Centre
Tel: +44 7756 034243


BepiColombo – Transit of Mercury:

Europlanet – Transit of Mercury:

Observatoire de Paris – Le passage de Mercure:

Royal Astronomical Society

Society for Popular Astronomy

Universe Awareness – Circus Mercurius:

About Europlanet
Since 2005, Europlanet has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 654208 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities across the European Research Area and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. The project builds on a €2 million Framework 6 Coordination Action and €6 million Framework 7 Research Infrastructure funded by the European Commission.  The Europlanet collegial organisation, linked by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), has a membership of over 70 research institutes and companies.

Europlanet project website:
Europlanet outreach website:
Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia