Highland Road Park Observatory

THE TRANSIT OF MERCURY☿

Monday, 9 May from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm
First one in ten years!
No admission fee. For all ages.

A “transit” is the phenomenon of viewing a smaller body crossing in front of a larger one. On 9 May, for the first time in ten years, the disk of Mercury☿ will traverse the disk of the Sun☉.

A Transit of Mercury☿ is not visible to the unaided eye. At least 30x magnification is needed to easily see the phenomenon. Several telescopes (at least six) will be in operation on HRPO grounds.

HRPO will be open for the duration of the event. The Sun☉ will actually be rising here in Baton Rouge as the transit gets started!

CAUTION:
Viewing a Transit across the Sun☉ can be dangerous for one’s eyesight if not performed correctly. The BRAS Forum thread lists a number of safe ways to view the transit (and actually, to view the Sun☉ in general). Do not use sunglasses, do not attempt to use your hand to cover a portion of the Sun☉, and do not attempt to “glance quickly” in the direction of the Sun☉. At any rate, a Transit of Mercury☿ is not visible to the unaided eye.

If a first-timer is in any doubt whether he will be performing the viewing safely, viewing of the Transit should be attempted only with someone with previous solar viewing experience.

Solar viewing glasses

SOLAR GLASSES
Solar glasses, like the ones in use in the photo above, are for sale at this time from the HRPO at $2.00 per pair. If an adult patron requests by phone only (768-9948), we can hold one or two pairs of glasses for up to twenty-four hours. Keep in mind, the glasses will assist in seeing the actual size of the Sun in the sky, to compare with what is seen in a telescope. The glasses will not show the disk of Mercury, which is too small to see without magnification. Do not use the glasses with any magnification device.

RECOMMENDED PRE-TRANSIT PROGRAMMING

Science Academy: Mercury☿…Saturday 16 April, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
The swiftest planet is also the hardest to spot in the sky. Why? Cadets will investigate the origin of Mercury’s☿ largest features and how they were named. Cadets will also learn how to safely view the Transit of Mercury☿. (This program is for eight- to twelve-year-olds. The fee is five dollars per in-parish child and six dollars per out-of-parish child. Limit sixteen.)

Mercury☿ Viewing…Saturday 16 April, 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm and Saturday 23 April, 5:45 pm to 7:15 pm
The little and elusive scorching-and-freezing planet is in crescent phase in the constellation Aries♈ during these two early evening sessions dedicated to spotting it! A non-transit view of the planet can assist a comprehension of how diminutive an amount of sky it occupies. (There is no admission fee.)

Friday Night Lecture Series: Transits…Friday 29 April, 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm
The beauty of a transit is unlike any other celestial phenomenon. Come discover the history of these events, how to safely view one and what to expect for the upcoming Transit of Mercury☿! (The program is meant for high schoolers and adults. There is no admission fee.)

2012 Transit of Venus

The 2012 Transit of Venus attracted one of the largest crowds in HRPO history.

2012 Transit of Venus
2012 Transit of Venus
2012 Transit of Venus
2012 Transit of Venus
2012 Transit of Venus

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

HOW RARE IS A TRANSIT OF MERCURY☿?
Transits of Mercury occur approximately twelve to fourteen times per century. Since some Transits occur when a person’s hometown in experiencing night, and some others while it is cloudy, a typical human being may have two to four opportunities to see a Transit of Mercury☿ live.

IS LOOKING AT THE SUN☉ DANGEROUS?
Yes, if done incorrectly. One must (1) use a projection device, (2) use a nighttime telescope with a solar filter or (3) use a solar telescope.

WILL THE TRANSIT OF MERCURY☿ BE VISIBLE UNAIDED-EYE?
No. At least 30x magnification will be needed.

WILL THE BATON ROUGE AREA SEE THE ENTIRE TRANSIT?
Most people in the Baton Rouge area will not see the entire Transit since the event will begin when the Sun☉ is at the Baton Rouge horizon. A Baton Rougean will have to wait 15 to 75 minutes after the Transit begins to see the Sun☉ (depending on his personal eastern horizon).

WHAT WILL HRPO PERSONNEL HELP PATRONS SEE?
HRPO personnel will be using one factory-made projection device…
*SunSpotter
…four nighttime telescopes with solar filters, three of which are…
*6" Orion Dobsonian
*8" Orion Dobsonian
*10" Orion Dobsonian
…and two solar telescopes, one of which is…
*90mm Coronado Solar Max II
Additionally, inside the main building will be a live feed from the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

WHAT ELSE WILL OCCUR AT HRPO DURING THIS TIME?
Personnel will provide special sketching forms (similar to the extra credit forms for students) so each patron can have a scientific keepsake. There will also be three tours of the facility given (8:00 am, 10:00 am and 12:00 pm). Information about the upcoming International Astronomy Day will also be available.

CAN PATRONS PURCHASE RAFFLE TICKETS FOR THE 8" ORION DOBSONIAN TELESCOPE DURING THIS EVENT?
Yes—in fact personnel encourage anyone who wants a ticket to get one as soon as possible. By law, HRPO only has a certain number of tickets to sell and a record has been set for number of tickets sold this far before IAD.

RESOURCES
Baton Rouge Astronomical Society: Estimated Times for Baton Rouge
Scientific Visualization Studio: Simulation of 2016 Mercury☿ Transit
Sky & Telescope Magazine: “Get Ready for May 9th’s Transit of Mercury☿”
U.S. Naval Observatory: 2016 Mercury☿ Transit Map
University of Barcelona: FAQs about Transits
Phys.Org: “Rare Transit of Mercury☿ to Take Place on 9 May”
European Space Agency: Mercury☿ Transit
EclipseWise: 2016 Transit of Mercury☿
NASA Press Release: “Coverage of May 9 Mercury☿ Transit of the Sun☉”

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Updated by Frederick J. Barnett on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 09:17 AM.