Let The Transit Begin!

Mercury at 27x through a 3-inch refractor at 7:20 a.m. CDT this morning. Credit: Bob King
Mercury at 27x through a 3-inch refractor at 8:50 a.m. CDT this morning. Credit: Bob King

“So you took the day off work to watch a little black dot cross the sun?” my wife asked drily. Well yes. Yes I did. OK, so I’m a little nuts. I admit it.

Just came back in after getting my first look at Mercury through a 3-inch refractor, and it was much more obvious even at low magnification that I’d thought. The pitch black, round dot was very easy to see at 27x, making me think that it could be spotted at even 15x. It would be fun to find out what the lowest magnification would be required to view it.

It’s kick seeing the planet in front of the sun because you can sense depth and imagine the space between us and the space between Mercury and the sun. Cool!

Hope you get to see it today.

UPDATE: Monday afternoon

Visitors stop by the planetarium at the University of Minnesota-Duluth to get an eyeful of Mercury as it transited the sun today. Credit: Bob King
Visitors stop by the planetarium at the University of Minnesota-Duluth to get an eyeful of Mercury as it transited the sun today. Credit: Bob King

We had a little haze in part of the country but never enough to compromise the view of the transit. Thanks to all the people who came by the planetarium for a look. Here are a few photos from the day.

View of Mercury (upper left) about 10 minutes before the end of the transit. Credit: Bob King
View of Mercury (upper right) about 10 minutes before the end of the transit. Credit: Bob King
Amateur astronomer Eric Norland supports his homemade sun projection setup with a window washing cane. Credit: Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com
Amateur astronomer Eric Norland supports his homemade sun projection setup with a window washing stick. Credit: Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com
The last bit of Mercury notches the western limb of the sun moments before transit end. The next transit will happen in 3 1/2 years. Credit: Bob King
The last bit of Mercury notches the western limb of the sun moments before transit end. The next transit will take place in 3 1/2 years. Credit: Bob King

12 Responses

  1. Kelly

    I noticed that the next Mercury transit in 2019 is on Veterans Day (November 11), so if you work somewhere where that’s recognized as a holiday you’ll be off for the transit anyway (even though like today’s transit that one also happens on a Monday).

  2. Edward M. Boll

    The next one will be on my 60th birthday. The transit of Venus in 2004 was on my wife’s birthday

    1. astrobob

      Hi Edward,
      Those are fun coincidences. It’s been so long since we’ve heard from you. How have you been?

  3. Giorgio Rizzarelli

    Hi Bob, I’m glad you saw it. I and friends did too: We had to fight a cloudy forecast with lots of faith, and got fairly well the beginning and quite well the middle.
    I agree with your theory about 15x (around) being the sufficient magnification to see it – We spotted it too at 30x, not only in white light but also in H-alfa and it was half-cloudy, so in white light with clear sky it could have been also 15x – while in the 9x finder I couldn’t see it. At 50x in white light the round shape was very evident – as you say, more than I expected.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Giorgio,
      I’m so glad you got to see it. We were very lucky to have fine skies all day. Just some haze and cirrus in the afternoon. It was a wonderful event to share. Fun to see sunspots, granulation and talk transit/exoplanets!

  4. Richard Keen

    My first transit was on my 14th birthday, in 1960. I watched it with the 3-inch Edmund “Space Conqueror” that was my big Christmas present the previous year. So this morning I took the Space Conqueror up to the road for my first glimpse of today’s transit as the Sun rose above the trees, and followed it with all sorts of scopes the rest of the morning.
    We had some clouds later on, but then it was perfectly clear for the last half hour. The “black drop” effect appeared right on time at the end, viewed with an ETX-90 at 40x or so.
    One striking thing about this transit was how much bigger Mercury appeared than during the previous two November transits. It was a distinct disk, comapred to a turbulent dot during the earlier events.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Richard,
      You go WAY back. My earliest was May 9, 1970 with my Edmund 6″ reflector when I was 17. By good fortune I happened to be in Austria during the Nov. 19, 1973 transit and tracked down a local observatory where the surprised astronomer allowed me a look through his telescope. Interesting about Mercury’s diameter. It was 12″ during today’s transit, but in Nov. 2006 it was only 10″, so there was a noticeable difference.

  5. Robert Peterson

    I am glad you are a little nuts. My wife thought me to be a bit nut also. But now at age 95 I am limited to your nuttiness and NightSkyNetwork. So keep up the nutty efforts

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