The Transit of Mercury
Friday 6th May 2016
Safe Planetary Viewing with the Physics Dept.
Miss Hayden, fierce advocate of astronomy, informs us of an exciting event this coming Monday.
‘On Monday 9th May 2016, the transit of Mercury will be taking place. This is when Mercury passes in front of the Sun and may be observed as a black disk crossing the face of the Sun.
Remember Safety First: NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN – even a couple of seconds is dangerous and could cause long-term damage to your eyes (and telescope and binoculars). View the transit safely with Physics staff or online.
This astronomical phenomena takes place only 13 – 14 times in a century and this transit is fully observable from the UK, so it’s well worth checking it out! While Mercury does pass between Earth and the sun every four months or so, we only get to see it transit when everything lines up just right. The small planet’s orbit is tilted compared to the plane of Earth’s orbit, so most of the time the swift “messenger of the gods” passes above or below the sun’s disk out of our line of sight. This is the same reason we do not see solar eclipses every month.
Only the two innermost planets, Mercury and Venus, can transit the sun for Earth-based viewers. While Mercury transits happen 13 to 14 times a century, Venusian transits are even rarer, happening on average only once a century. The last Venus transit occurred in 2012, and we won’t see another one until 2117.
The transit will begin fully at 12.15pm, so we will be both screening the transit live in the Physics Lab. and, if the weather is good, we will be attempting to project an image of the Sun and transit using out binoculars. For those of you at home, you can watch the transit live online – Both Virtual Telescope and Slooh.com promise to have coverage from beginning to end on Monday.
Again, please remember Safety First: NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN – even a couple of seconds is dangerous and could cause long-term damage to your eyes (and telescope and binoculars).
View the transit safely with Physics staff or online.’