Tandem Transit With Mercury

Mercury near mid-transit a little after 9 o’clock this morning. The photo was taken through a 3-inch scope at 20x. Bob King

Mercury and I were both in transit today. As the little planet sped across the vast solar disk I traveled 150 miles from Duluth to Minneapolis to attend a family funeral. The weather kept my transit interesting — sunny in Duluth, cloudy in Moose Lake, snowing in Pine City followed by sunshine in Hinkley. Each minute that expired, Mercury moved another millimeter and I another mile.

Three guys headed to Duluth enjoy a look at the transit earlier today through a small refractor outfitted with a solar filter during a gas stop in Hinkley, Minn. Bob King

We stopped at two gas stations where I shared the planet’s progress through a small telescope with curious passersby. Maybe it’s Minnesota but people felt comfortable wandering up and asking directly “What are you looking at?” One guy on his way north to Duluth stepped up to the scope, looked in and exclaimed that Mercury looked like a “pimple,” a wonderfully accurate description.

Mercury Transit November 11, 2019. NASA’s orbiting captured Mercury’s smooth moves today in several different “flavors” of ultraviolet light. Enjoy!

I caught views of the transit at the beginning, middle and an hour before it ended. My favorite part by far was the middle. Hovering near the solar center, the petite planet appeared engulfed by the sun, as if it might vaporize in a poof. But Mercury never veered from its course and departed the disk just after noon as rock-solid as it entered. U.S. observers won’t see a repeat performance until Nov. 7, 2049. By that time I expect to be transiting on to the afterlife.

3 Responses

  1. Edward M Boll

    I looked through my glasses at the Sun a few times. I have been using them on the Sun since 1991. They show like a bright green disc. I did not see much in the way of storms or the planet. So, Nov 7, 2049. I will still be 89, hopefully I am better situated then. I may make it. My parents are doing fine in their mid 80s. A rather rare phenom enon on my 60th birthday, this Monday. Another rare thing totally unrelated. The day of transit, I turned 60, also marked the 200th anniversary of the death of my great great great great grandpa, Matthew Burriss, a Revolutionary War Soldier at age 59 on Nov 11, 1819 at age 59. His mother in law died in 1828. I have been to the cemetery where they are buried in Kentucky.

  2. Talk about going the extra mile! Sorry for your loss.
    Our Westchester Astronomers group set up at Rye Playland’s boardwalk on Long Island Sound, north of NYC. We were busy showing the transit to joggers, dog walkers and families visiting an adjoining children’s’ museum, so I only got a snap with my iPhone.
    Below is a link to an iPhone snap I took through my 200mm dobsonian telescope with a white-light filter. Mercury looked much sharper visually through the eyepiece. I knew when people figured out what they were looking at when I heard ‘Oh. Wow. THAT tiny dot.’ I used a 30mm 2-inch eyepiece which allowed a 40x view of almost the entire sun. It seemed to give people the context and a way to get their eye lined up in the eyepiece. Then they could go to other scopes that viewed the transit at higher powers. Perhaps having 8 inches of aperture let me get away with lower power. Despite a deck of high clouds, the black dot of Mercury against the Sun had tremendous contrast.


    1. astrobob

      Hey bkelly,
      Those photos turned out very well. It’s fun to share these events with the public. Sounds like you had a great time.

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