Mercury Transit Report

Reports for 2019
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Apollo XX
MSSF Coordinator
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Joined: Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:11 pm

Mercury Transit Report

Unread post by Apollo XX »

So today we had a semi-rare planetary transit of the Sun, the planet being Mercury of course. Now anything transiting the Sun is an exciting astronomical event, but these Mercury transits are insanely long by astronomical event standards. I was my opinion that to get the most enjoyment out of it I should try to share it with the public at large.

Of course the weather is an oppositional son of a gun when it comes to astronomy here in the northeast USA, and as per usual it did its level best to ruin even the best laid plans. Heck, Tim ran all the way to Florida to avoid it! My plan wasn’t quite so elaborate. I had originally decided on Castle Island in South Boston as a good place to set up and share, but with the forecast virtually ensuring that nothing would be seen from there I shifted gears and chose Fort Taber Park in New Bedford instead.

When I got in the truck just before 7:30am this morning the sky was overcast all around but I decided to venture forth anyway. I didn’t get a mile down the street when a break came in the clouds and I thought I could catch the ingress of Mercury onto the disc of the Sun. I pulled over in a soccer field parking area and got out the scope. Wouldn’t you know it, but right after I got the Sun on the screen a big ol’ cloud came right over and darkened things up. It was 7:35am. A few more minutes and I might have caught second contact, but no. I put the gear back and got in the truck to head south towards New Bedford.

As I drove through Middleboro I started to notice a big break in the cloud cover, and as I traveled through the center and past all the old Victorian homes it was sunny. I went a little further and pulled into a small strip mall with a Dunkin Donuts. I set up next to the sidewalk and for the next hour and a half shared the remarkably diminutive Mercury against the backdrop of the Sun with about twenty five people. To a person they were thrilled to see such a site, with every one of them expressing appreciation for being shown such a thing. It’s that appreciation that keeps me going back out to do outreach again.

It was now 9:30am and the clouds had thickened to the point where it was no longer practical to see Mercury in the Sun Funnel image. I packed up and headed back to Bridgewater. While driving up Rte18, it once again cleared and again I pulled into a small strip mall with a DD. This stint only lasted about a half hour and I only had about six people check it out. Cloudy once again, I packed up and got a coffee and one of those new ‘it’s not meat’ sandwiches. It actually wasn’t bad and I’m not sick or anything, so I guess they’re ok.

Once home, I started putting stuff away and wouldn’t you know it but a hole came in the clouds. Hurrying, I plunked down the PST and was thrilled to death with the wonderfully contrasty image. There was still two hours to go before egress and thick clouds were rolling in. I was satisfied with what I had gotten. It had been a good day.

Moving on to other things, I didn’t expect any more viewing of the event on this day – until an hour before egress came and the sky once again cleared well enough for viewing. I broke out the PST again and sat down. The image was stunning, and before I knew it I staring down the possibility of actually seeing third contact and the egress. Of course the clouds had to tease me and cover the target leading up to final minutes, but they gave me the break I was hoping for and departed just in time for the most exciting part of the transit. Third contact was a little elongated due to the saw-tooth profile of the Sun’s limb from the poor seeing, and the egress itself was just a blast to watch.

Now it’ll be thirty or more years before we see anything like this in our area again. I’ll be knocking on the door to ninety then, and while I’m hopeful that I’ll have what it takes to see the next one, I’m awful glad that I got to see this one and I hope you did to!

8:00am and Mercury is solidly onto the disc of the Sun:
MercSunFun1-R.jpg (432.13 KiB) Viewed 2498 times
3,000 miles across vs. 865,000 miles across - zoomed in a little to make it easier to find:
MercSunFun2-R.jpg (461.6 KiB) Viewed 2498 times
Everybody - bar none - was amazed:
SeeingMercTrans-R.png (2.06 MiB) Viewed 2498 times
45 minutes later and we have discernible movement:
MercSunFun3-R.jpg (403.1 KiB) Viewed 2498 times
An hour to go with the cell phone through the eyepiece of the PST:
MercTransPST Samsung-R.jpg
MercTransPST Samsung-R.jpg (255.68 KiB) Viewed 2498 times
And one with my afocal setup through the eyepiece of the PST:
MercTranPST Kodak-R.jpg
MercTranPST Kodak-R.jpg (92.44 KiB) Viewed 2498 times
"The purpose of life is the investigation of the Sun, the Moon, and the heavens." - Anaxagoras
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Paul D
Equipment Manager
Posts: 2107
Joined: Fri Mar 19, 2004 2:13 pm

Re: Mercury Transit Report

Unread post by Paul D »


Great report and images. I was tempted to try some images with my PST but I was so uncertain how much actual visual observing I would get because of all the clouds I decided against it. I count myself lucky to be able to have been able to see this event and I am glad others did also.

16" f/5 Night Sky Truss (Midnight Mistress)
10" f/5 Home built Dob with Parks mirror.
Pre-Meade PST
Celestron Skymaster Binos 25-125x80
Meade Travelview Binos 10x50

See that 16" in the sleek black dress? She is all mine. :)
Bruce D
Life Member
Posts: 5561
Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2003 6:10 am

Re: Mercury Transit Report

Unread post by Bruce D »

Nice work Mike!
Bruce D
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