We’d been watching the forecast for days, and it was not promising: Up to 100% cloud cover would prevent us from watching the Mercury transit at sunrise on 11 November 2019. As late as 5 AM I was posting on this website that the event was off. And then I got a phone call from Mike Bradley that he and Danny Sklazeski had gone down to the Roberts Creek pier and that there was some clear sky to the east. I raced down there to join Mike and Danny. There was indeed a narrow gap in the clouds to the east giving us a nice view of Mount Baker. Unfortunately by the time the sun rose the clouds were closing that gap and we never actually got a view of the transit. We held on for a while just in case another opening presented itself, but then it started to sprinkle rain and we packed it in.
Before we left we did have a chance to interact with some people out walking their dogs and a few other club members dropped in to see if we’d had any luck.
Charles Ennis, 2nd VP, RASC
The forecast looks relatively favourable for opening the SCC Observatory on Saturday, 2 November 2019 at 18:30 hours. We’ll update on this page around 4 PM on Saturday to confirm. The Moon is a couple of days before First Quarter.
UPDATE 11:30 AM, Saturday 2 November: The forecast is showing sky conditions degrading, with high cloud covering between 70 and 83% of the sky at opening time for the observatory with a small percentage of low cloud coming in. We will update again at 4 PM, but it isn’t looking promising for viewing at present.
UPDATE 4 PM: The sky is definitely degrading. We’re not opening the observatory tonight. See you next time.
Only the inner planets, Mercury and Venus, can cross the solar disk. Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena, occurring in a pattern repeating every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. Mercury, on the other hand, transits the solar disk approximately 13 times per century. The last transit of Venus occurred on 2012 June 5-6 and the next will occur on 2117 December 10-11. The last transit of Mercury occurred 2016 May 9 and our astronomers viewed that from our SCC Observatory at Sechelt Airport. Mercury is next due to transit the Sun on 2019 November 11, and the Sunshine Coast Astronomy Club will be in Roberts Creek to help people view it. After this, the next Mercury transit isn’t until 2032 November 13, so you won’t want to miss this.
Only viewers in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada will be able to view the entire 5 ½ hour event, as the Mercury transit starts at sunrise in that area. Here in BC the transit will be in progress when the Sun comes up: We’ll still be able to view nearly 3 hours of transit. Our astronomers chose a location which would give us the best unobstructed view as the Sun rises to make sure that we capture as much of this transit event as possible. We’ll be setting up at the Roberts Creek pier at sunrise at 07:00 on 11 November with our solar scopes. Everyone is welcome to join us to view this event. We’re hoping for clear skies that morning.
A transit of Venus can be viewed with eclipse glasses, but Mercury is too small to view in this fashion. To view a Mercury transit, you’ll need to equip your binoculars or telescope with a front aperture solar filter, use a telescope with a Herschel Wedge and filter, or use a hydrogen alpha telescope designed for solar viewing. Our members will have these solar telescopes set up to allow the public to safely view the Mercury Transit.
We’ll post updates here as the day approaches.
UPDATE: 3 pm Sunday, 10 November:
A few days back the forecast did not look good at all for Monday morning, with rain forecast. This has gradually improved as we close in on Monday morning, but still looking problematic. Before 3 am on Monday the Clear Outside forecast site is showing 100% high cloud through the day, which would make solar flares impossible to see but could allow us to see Mercury transiting the Sun. However, the forecast for medium cloud cover rises Monday morning from 17% at 4 am to 98% at 7 am, which would definitely prevent viewing. Clear Dark Sky shows transparency Monday morning as “too cloudy to forecast” from 4 am onwards, and seeing after 6 am as “too cloudy to forecast”. I’m going to check the skies between 4 am and 5 am Monday Morning to make a final decision. I will post an update here by 5.
UPDATE: 5 am Monday, 11 November:
Viewed the sky at 3:45 am and you could just make out Vega at the zenith and one other fuzzy star (Altair?) but no others at all and a glow in the western sky behind the clouds from the nearly full Moon, but no view of the Moon itself. At 5 am the Moon had set and both stars had completely disappeared. Clouds are closing in as predicted.
UPDATE: 7 am Monday: We have some clear sky to the east! We’re going for it! See you at Roberts Creek pier!
At 7:00 PM, 2019 October 11, at the Sechelt Public Library, 5797 Cowrie St., Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents Linda and Tom Spilker.
Dr. Linda Spilker’s topic will be Cassini’s Intriguing New Discoveries.
Dr. Linda Spilker is a NASA research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. She is currently the Cassini Project Scientist and a Co-Investigator on the Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer team and has worked on Cassini since 1988. Since joining JPL over 40 years ago she has worked on the Voyager Project, the Cassini Project and conducted independent research on the origin and evolution of planetary ring systems. She received her B.A. from Cal State Fullerton, her M.S. from Cal State Los Angeles, and her Ph.D. from UCLA.
Dr. Tom Spilker’s topic will be his work on the Gateway Foundation’s plan for a rotating space station.
Tom spent 20 years at JPL as a “Mission Architect” after a PhD at Stanford doing research associated with spacecraft-based planetary radio occultation experiments, with a couple of courses in orbital dynamics. He has worked on the Voyager, Cassini, Genesis, and Rosetta missions. He works with both science and engineering aspects of mission planning. He retired from JPL in 2012 and is now an independent consultant working with space agencies all over the world.
Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.
The RASC National Robotic Telescope is up and running and an archive of image data is now being made available to RASC members.
If you’d like to try your hand at processing some high resolution astro images the data can be obtained from the link that was included in your September RASC bulletin (mine arrived today). Image files are available for download in either .jpg or Raw format.
I took a look at the raw images that had been taken of the North American Nebula with a 20″ scope and a DSLR, 25 two minute images. My preliminary image was processed with DeepSkyStacker and PixInsight, using curves and levels with no noise reduction, the result is shown below. Not at all bad for 10 minutes of stacking and processing. It would be better if calibration files had been made available. Nevertheless, this is going to be FUN, give it a try, download some data and experiment!
We won’t be open Saturday, 24 August as we’re busy doing Astronomy in the Park at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park. We are planning to open the observatory Sunday, 25 August as the forecast at the time of writing is favourable. We’ll update on this page on Sunday around 4 PM. Gates open at 8:30 PM.
At the end of July David Thompson upgraded our observatory with solar powered night lights which provide red lighting on the deck and access ramp of the observatory. These modules are spaced along the railings of the ramp and deck. These got their first trial at a public observing session August 4, and they work well. Thanks David!