Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mercury and the Sun

A previous transit of Mercury in front of the disc of the Sun (image: NASA)

I forgot to post about this earlier today...
Yesterday at the plaza the Riverside Astrological Society was camped out in front of Borders with about 10 telescopes pointing up at the sun. I was kinda curious and I wondered what was going on. So after my fabulous lunch at Panera (it's becoming a home away form home) I made a pit stop there on the way to my car.
So, I casually walked up to the first guy and the first telescope and asked what was going on. :) He explained that Mercury was passing in front of the sun and they brought out all their telescopes so that everyone would be able to see it as it only happens a couple of times a century. So, I got to sit in this cool chair and check out the planet Mercury passing in front of the sun. PRETTY COOL.

Here's a short article about it from the Discovery Channel Website:

Watch Mercury pass in front of the Sun LIVE
Updated Thu. Nov. 2 2006 2:32 PM ET

Amy Bonin ,

On Wednesday the world will be able to view Mercury as the planet passes in front of the Sun for the last time this decade.

The transit of a planet across the face of the Sun is relatively uncommon: we can only see Mercury and Venus' transits from Earth because we're further out in the solar system looking in.

Most people in Canada will be able to see the event more or less in its entirety. The transit begins at 2:12 pm ET. The Sun sets just before the whole event finishes in Eastern, Central, and most of Western Canada, though viewers in B.C. will be able to see the whole thing.

Watching in your backyard

Since Mercury appears to be only 1/194th the size of the Sun, astronomy enthusiasts will need a telescope with a magnification of 50x or 100x and a special filter made for solar viewing to watch this rare wonder.
There are only about 13 transits of Mercury each century - even fewer for transits of Venus, which occur in pairs about once a century.

The next time Mercury will pass in front of the Sun is 2016.

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