If you got to see the 2016 Transit of Mercury I congratulate you. If you didn’t, check the time table here. Looks like you’ll get to see one again on November 11th, 2019 . . .nice that would be my youngest sister’s birthday. . . maybe I can get a few pictures and better video for a gift. . .. Next time I hope to have a lunt.
For the transit I got up early, had coffee ready and set up before the sun came up. . .the trees in the neighbors blocked my view until it was underway for about an hour. I then drove over to a friend’s house to record the rest tree free, and so they could see it as well. The transit was something I was like OK, I’ll see it then be bored really fast. honestly It was pretty cool to look and keep checking back to see how far it crossed. I had a great itme and if the sun wasn’t so hot from it being a clear sunny Florida day, on top of it making the laptop overheat and shut down even though it was in the shade, I would have stayed looking the hole time.
What’s the big deal?
The transit occurs on two specific events happen. mercury is on the ascending or descending node. What is this? well an ascending node is described as : “The point in an orbit where a body traveling from south to north crosses a reference plane, such as the plane of the ecliptic (in the case of a Solar System object) or the celestial equator. The opposite point in the orbit, where the body moves from north to south across the reference plane, is the descending node. The longitude of the ascending node is an orbital element. “ – David Darling
Secondly the planet Mercury has to be between the earth and the sun on one of those nodes. Mercury’s orbit is inclined 7 degrees that of earth’s so it has to be in the node while we are in line with the sun and Mercury slips in between us. Depending on locations of all parties involved, it makes a huge difference on the incline the planet Mercury passes along the sun’s disk and how long the transit lasts.
This year we got a particularly nice and long view, It was around 7 hours.
The intervals happen at such a frequency that the transits happen 13 or 14 times every century. it gives you a good chance to see it if you miss one or two or three. . . .
Not only do you get to see a celestial event, but there are several notable astronomers that witnessed it as well. If you get to see one you join the ranks of those who have witnessed it such as : William Herschel in England 1802 or Observed by Charles Green and James Cook from Mercury Bay in New Zealand. Noted that Mercury had little or no atmosphere 1769 Nov 9. Others such as when Joseph-Nicolas Delisle coordinated scientific observations worldwide. The notable Pierre Gassendi, Jeremy Shakerly, Edmund Halley, Richard Towneley in Lancashire when they tried to determine solar parallax, also noted by Jean Charles Gallet in Avignon; as reported in letter from John Flamsteed to Johannes Hevelius on23 May 1678. Sorry I got caught up in the moment. . . .if you get to observe this celestial event you join the giants that have seen them as well. . . .and if that doesn’t get the hair on the back of your neck up then you might not have a pulse!
ok, ok, ok, I know you are excited to see it because I got you all worked up on the intro.
The first set of images which I just took the photos and processed I didn’t worry so much about orientation on the transit. mercury is the little black orb on the disk. the sunspot groups are near center.
In this shot of Mercury slipping off the disk I was there with my 2 friends as we watched, it was somber in tone as we all watched it slip away as if we had just seen something grand come to a sad end. . . I didn’t get the black drop effect image, but this was one of my favorite shots right there.
Of course no transit would be complete with out getting a composite of all the images that show the pathway of the planet across the surface.
If you would like to see better quality images, I keep copies of everything in flikr. they let me use .tif files which are 16 bit over 8 bit jpegs, meaning better detail. feel free to check out the album here. I don’t mind people seeing or taking a copy they like just so long as they give me credit, I do the same for others and would appreciate the acknowledgement. Heck take it down and print it out and put it on your wall in a nice frame just remember where you got it from!
Video the videos are located here: on my youtube channel
- ascending node, entry in The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight, David Darling, on line, accessed May 11, 2016.
- Magazine of Popular Science, and Journal of the Useful Arts, Volume 3 p.154
- Wayne Orchiston 1994, James Cook and the 1769 Transit OF Mercury, Carter Observatory ISSN 1173-7263 http://www.transitofvenus.co.nz/docs/CarterObservatoryInfo3.doc
Transit of Mercury, entry in Wikipedia, on line, accessed May 11, 2016.