Obtain Prepared for the Transit of Mercury

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 11:51 PM

From Earth, it'll see love a miniscule black dot crossing in front of the enormous solar disc - love a super-tiny eclipse. To paraphrase a well-known song, "There'll be a small black spot on the Sunday this May!" This scarce and subtle event is visible only thirteen or fourteen times each century, and I wish you to look it all.

Obtain Prepared for the Transit of Mercury

Label your calendars! On May nine, two thousand sixteen there will be a Transit of Mercury - that'south when the tiny planet Mercury will arrive directly between us and the Sun. From Earth, it'll see love a miniscule black dot crossing in front of the enormous solar disc - love a super-tiny eclipse. To paraphrase a well-known song, "There'll be a small black spot on the Sunday this May!"

This scarce and subtle event is visible only thirteen or fourteen times each century, and I wish you to look it all.

A Tiny about Mercury and the Sun
These are two substantially different heavenly bodies. Mercury is a tiny rocky object 3.032 miles wide, while the Sunday is an nearly perfect sphere of hydrogen and helium gas 865.000 miles in diameter. When the two align and create a Transit, the size disagreement can be quite eye-opening.

The first person to look a Transit of Mercury was French astronomer Pierre Gassendi in one thousand six hundred thirty-first, and the latest Transit occurred on November eight, two thousand six.

The two thousand sixteen Transit of Mercury begins on May nine at precisely 7:12am EDT when the silhouette of Mercury makes itself known at the edge of the Sun - this is called first contact. Then the planet will slowly and steadily show up to move across the Sunday until 2:42pm EDT when it finally leaves the Sun'south disc (latest contact).

So this will be happening most of the day on Monday, May nine and be visible, for at minimum a piece of the time anywhere in N America and S America, as well as Europe, Africa and most of Asia. But wait, there'south a problem: you can't just stare at the Sun!

Shoot the Messenger
To view the Transit of Mercury you'll necessity two things:

  1. A secure solar viewing method (so you don't go blind)
  2. A way to magnify the image (since Mercury will be too tiny to look with the bare eye)

To achieve both of these I recommend using a pair of binoculars or a tiny telescope with a certified secure solar filter. You could also create your own solar filters from special Mylar, black polymer, or Baader film. Or you could utilize your telescope or binoculars to project an image of the Sunday onto white paper - just don't keep your eye, head or any body portion in the intense beam of light to stay safe.

The final challenge is to get a picture of the Transit of Mercury. Either you can position your camera to the finish of a properly filtered telescope and document the event, or you can click a shot of the projection of the Sunday on the white paper. This citizen-science project is called "SHOOT THE MESSENGER!" and is sponsored by the Cincinnati Observatory. They'll compile all of the submitted pictures into a film covering the all 7.5 hr event.

For more information on how you can participate, please visit the Cincinnati Observatory's website.

Here'south hoping that you've a bright, sunny May ninth to view this scarce heavenly event. Prepare your secure solar viewers this mo so you don't miss it. The following Transit of Mercury doesn't arrive around again until November eleven, 2019.

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