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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
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!
Mike Bradley and I were up at the SCC Observatory at 5:30 AM to open up and several members of the public were there at first light to view the transit of Mercury. The transit, which began at 4:12 AM before the sun rose, was in progress as the sun cleared the trees. Steve Sleep from Coast Cable showed up to do interviews and film the action.
By the time the day was over we’d had 10 of our members, 1 Vancouver Centre member, and 21 members of the public drop by to view the transit. Mike and Danny got photos and Mike got some video of the event as well.
We collected $114 in donations during the event.
Charles Ennis, President
Thursday night Scott, Bruce W, and I went up to the SCC Observatory and spent several hours viewing Jupiter and other wonders of the night sky. The viewing conditions were very good.
Friday morning, 6 May, David and Mike went up to the observatory and mounted the new Antares guide scope on the side of the main optical tube assembly of the SCC Observatory.
Friday night, the official opening of Science Odyssey (6 – 15 May), 8 club members set up their telescopes outside the observatory and I opened the SCC Observatory to view the double shadow transit of Jupiter. members all noted that seeing was challenging and, as James put it: “Members dug in among buffeting winds (albeit warm winds) to peer into The Jovian atmosphere.” David modeled the transit using astronomy software and was able to show us the shadow position to look for. We spotted Callisto’s shadow on Jupiter and Io transiting first with the observatory telescope, the shadow skirting the north polar region about 9 PM, with the Great Red Spot crossing the central meridian. The Antares scope proved to be lined up well with the OTA.
“Neil carried out scientific research on the light pass of several different 2″ diagonals and we had opportunity to compare the views in James 11″ SCT Service Scope and Neil’s Shiny new 8” SCT with fresh Starbright XLT Coatings from the Celestron factory.
“We observed Jupiter and Moon’s, two shadow transits – there was a moon transit too not visible to us under the conditions –
Globular Clusters M3 and M13 – both beatifully resolved, Galaxies M82 (Neil),
M65, M66 (James ) and The Ring Nebula
Which appeared best in Neil 8” SCT.
“Just before departure Saturn and Mars arrived on the scene and we had tantalizing views of these distant world’s promising more detail to follow. We exited the Stargate at 12.50 am. A great night.”
Meanwhile Mike Bradley was photographing the event from his SunMoonStars Observatory:
“I could view the transit with my 5” Megrez and capture a movie for processing. Attached is the result from stacking 500 frames, taken at f20. As James said the seeing was not great and focus was hard to achieve. Thanks to the magic of stacking software the image isn’t too bad! The reddish cast to the image is because the camera has been modified for Hydrogen alpha, I’ll do some further processing to try to correct for this.”
Members will be back up at the observatory Saturday night for viewing. The SCC Observatory will be open to the public from sunrise on Monday, 9 May, for the transit of Mercury, which will last until 1140 AM.
Charles Ennis, President
The planet Mercury passes between the face of the Sun and Earth only 14 times per century, and one of those events is about to occur as the Sun rises on May 9. When the Sun rises at 5:30 AM on Monday, 9 May, the transit will already be in progress (having started about 4:12 AM). The transit will end at 11:42 AM. We’ll have the SCC Observatory open for public viewing that morning (weather permitting) with our solar scopes for safe viewing.