The Mercury Transit of November 8, 2006

Monday, November 06 2006 @ 10:45 am EST

Contributed by: bobmoody

NEVER use a telescope to view the Sun, unless you use PROPER, SAFE solar filters. Instant and permanent eye damage may result! Proper filters cover the opening end of a telescope and must be rated as allowing a maximum of only .001 of 1% of visible light transmission. If you own a small telescope that utilizes a small screw-on filter that attaches to the eyepiece, THROW IT AWAY! These eyepiece filters can break from the intense heat of the Sun and you can not move fast enough to keep from being blinded PERMANENTLY!

Mercury is the innermost planet of our solar system. Being so close to the Sun it automatically has a very rapid orbital period. This gives Mercury a "year" of only about 88 Earth-days. On occasional orbits around the Sun, Mercury happens to pass in front of the Sun's face as seen from Earth, and when this happens, its called a transit.

AOAS will not be offering public views of the November 8 transit. But for anyone who wants to see this event, we have some web addresses where visitors can view the transit from many different telescopes located in some far-flung places around our planet.

UPDATE: I have posted two of my images of the transit. The one below lists the equipment used. The second is available by clicking on READ MORE below.

This image of the Venus transit from June 8, 2004 was taken with my digital camera as it appeared on my monitor while watching the event "live" via webcast from two different solar observatories in the eastern hemisphere. Click "Read More" below to go to the web addresses for live views of this next transit on Nov 8. Click here to see my album of images of the Venus transit of June 8, 2004.
AOAS members at our October 6th meeting discussed the possibility of hosting the public to view this semi-rare event of Mercury transiting the face, or disk, of the Sun. When we considered the day of the week, the absolute necessity of having a solar filter for magnified views of the tiny disk of Mercury, and the "oomph", if you will, the amount of bang for the buck invested, we decided NOT to setup our telescopes for this event.

Mercury transits the Sun on average about 13 or 14 times each century. I watched the November 1999 Mercury transit from my home in Sallisaw with my dad. His eyes didn't allow him to see the tiny (and I mean, TINY) pitch-black disk of the planet near the edge of the solar limb, but I could see it without too much trouble. But as I watched the event over a short period of time, I had to wonder what all the hooplah was about for planetary transit in the first place. I mean, when it comes right down to it, you need a telescope with a proper and SAFE filter for viewing the Sun, and lots of patience to watch the event as it slowly drifts across the disk.
Here is one of my first images of Mercury just after it had begun its transit. Notice the nice sunspot near the limb. This image is taken with a Meade ETX125-EC w/o drives, and withmy home made solar filter with Baader Astro Solar Safety Film. I used a 26mm Plossl eyepiece. The camera is my Canon PowerShot A10 at nearly full zoom (about 4.5X ?) and on automatic.
In 1999, the event was a very "shallow" transit, meaning it entered and crossed near the edge of the Sun's disk giving a length of time of only an hour or so from start to finish.

This transit on Wednesday, November 8, 2006 will be a much "deeper" transit across the Sun's disk, and the event will last 5 hours, from around 1:12PM when it first touches the Sun until just after the Sun sets in the west as seen from Van Buren. Folks need to be west of a line running north-and-south through the Rocky Mountains in order to be better placed to allow viewing of the entire transit. Hawaii and Australia are best placed for this particular transit.

But, knowing that there will likely be people wanting to see this event, we offer this link to the Exploratorium for a live feed of the transit as it progresses from observatories around the world such as Kitt Peak in Arizona , or possibly Keck or any of the other of the myriad observatories located in Hawaii. This will assure everyone interested that you'll be able to see a live streaming video of the entire transit, all 5 hours of it, without interuption from clouds or other disturbances.

Visitors to the Exploratorium will also find detailed explanations as to what a transit is, and how to view it safely. There is much information on past transits and future transits as well.

So, visit AOAS when we have one of our frequent nighttime viewing events. We'll gladly show you dozens or even scores of dim deep-sky and planetary objects. But for the November 8, 2006 transit of the Sun by Mercury, go to the Exploratorium, or perhaps another site to watch this event take place in complete comfort and safety, and enjoy a ton of other information about what's going on, too.

Click read more for another image after nearly an hour into the transit.

Another image, same setup, after nearly an hour into the transit.
My two images of the transit aren't that good, but they will allow me to keep them as a reminder of this transit of the Sun by Mercury.

The next transit of the Sun will take place on June 6, 2012, and that will be Venus. This will be Venus' last transit for 122 years, but another transit of Mercury will take place in 2016.

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