See the transit of Mercury Monday, November 11

Photo: 2016 Transit of Mercury. Photo by James Guilford
Transit of Mercury, May 9, 2016. A cloudy sky left occasional openings for views of tiny Mercury slowly gliding across the solar disk. Photo by James Guilford.

UPDATE: The Transit of Mercury program planned for Edgewater Park has been canceled due to a forecast of clouds, rain/snow, and below freezing temps. We’ll have to try again in 13 years when the next transit comes around.

The planet Mercury will cross between Earth and Sun on Monday, November 11, 2019. Given clear skies, members of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) will be stationed at the lower level of Edgewater Park offering safe viewing of the event. Viewing times at Edgewater will be from noon until just after 1:00 p.m.

CAA members will be present with their solar-safe telescopes offering several ways of viewing our Sun. Cloudy skies will, of course, cancel the event. No tickets or reservations are required; those interested should simply come to the park. The transit is a natural, astronomical occurrence and cannot be rescheduled; when it has finished, it is finished!

Anyone with eclipse viewing glasses would be able to view the transit but without the magnification offered by a telescope, the event will be hard to see. Mercury, officially a planet, is not quite three times the size of Earth’s Moon. Viewed from Earth, around 48 million miles distant, Mercury is tiny!

The 2019 transit begins at about 7:35 a.m. and will end at 1:04 p.m. November 11. Another transit of Mercury won’t take place for 13 years.

WARNING: NEVER look directly at the sun through binoculars, a telescope, or with your unaided eye. Permanent eye damage and even blindness can result. Astronomers use special filters and glasses to safely observe the sun. Sunglasses, photo negatives, etc. will not protect against eye injury.

July 29: A great night for stargazers

Photo: Astronomers with their telescopes. Photo by Alan Studt.
Under Starry Skies – Photo by Alan Studt

by William Murmann, CAA President

We had one of our most successful public star parties for the Medina County Park District last night (July 29) at Letha House. I don’t have an exact count, but I think 100 or more guests came for the event under great clear skies and mild temperatures. The parking lot was full. Lots of young families came with children, many of whom got their first look at the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and other objects through a telescope.

Photo: Waxing Crescent Moon, July 29, 2017. Photo by James Guilford.
Waxing Crescent Moon dominated the sky for the CAA’s Public Night. Photo by James Guilford.

Many thanks to all who helped! Observatory Director Jay Reynolds had a busy night showing the night sky with our 12-inch and 8-inch scopes. Education Director Nora Mishey spent the whole evening in the building, talking with folks about her educational astronomy displays, sharing home-baked cookies, and discussing our club. Three platters of Nora’s cookies quickly disappeared.

Photo: Woman using telescope in red-lit observatory under starry sky.
“First-light” observing with the just-completed eight-inch Meade. Photo by Alan Studt

 

 

 

 

We had 14 scopes at the event. Two of them were brought by nonmembers who hopefully will join our club. I was busy during the evening talking with people and showing the Moon with my scope, so I may not have a complete list of members who helped. If I missed anyone, please let me know.

Photo: Group pauses to watch a passage of the International Space Station. Photo by James Guilford.
Watching the Space Station. Photo by James Guilford.

A big thank you for helping to VP Tim Campbell, Bob Wiersma, James Guilford, Alan Studt, Rich & Nancy Whisler, Bill & Carol Lee, Carl Kudrna, Dave Nuti, Chris Christie, Bruce Lane, Jay Reynolds, Nora Mishey, and me. If you were there and I missed you, please let me know.

Thanks again everyone!

Mornings bring planetary possibilities

Illustration: Five Planets Visible in the Pre-Dawn Sky
Five Planets Visible in the Pre-Dawn Sky

Over recent weeks we have watched as several planets have appeared close together in our morning sky — when clear, that is — and even seen them shift their positions as the days passed! Beginning this frigid week and continuing into mid-February, five of Earth’s Solar System siblings will be visible, spanning the southern sky. This is the first time since 2005 that this planetary lineup has occurred. If we get a break in morning cloud cover go out, just before dawn’s early light, and look for the planetary parade. Little Mercury will be the hardest to spot being both dim and close to the horizon. Venus and Jupiter will be easy as they are the brightest of the bunch. Golden Saturn and finally reddish Mars should also be easy to find though Mars isn’t a standout. The gathering will occur again late this summer and in the evening sky. The planets aren’t really very much closer together in space during this time. The chart below illustrates the current relative positions of the planets; it’s our point of view from Earth that makes creates the scene: something like watching racers on a race track, appearing closer and farther apart as they run laps in their concentric lanes.

Illustration: Lines of Sight Illustrate the Field of View from Earth
Lines of Sight Illustrate the Field of View from Earth

Earth and Moon seen from Saturn and Mercury

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These images show views of Earth and the moon from NASA’s Cassini (left) and MESSENGER spacecraft (right) from July 19, 2013.

In the Cassini image, the wide-angle camera has captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. Earth, which is 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away in this image, appears as a blue dot at center right; the moon can be seen as a fainter protrusion off its right side. An arrow indicates their location in the annotated version. The other bright dots nearby are stars.

Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. said, “Cassini’s picture reminds us how tiny our home planet is in the vastness of space, and also testifies to the ingenuity of the citizens of this tiny planet to send a robotic spacecraft so far away from home to study Saturn and take a look-back photo of Earth.”

In the MESSENGER image, Earth and the moon appear as a pair of bright star-like features. MESSENGER was at a distance of 61 million miles (98 million kilometers) from Earth when it took this image with the wide-angle camera of the Mercury Dual Imaging System.

MESSENGER took this image as part of a campaign to search for natural satellites of Mercury. Earth and the moon appear very large in this picture because they are overexposed. When looking for potentially dim satellites, long exposures are required to capture as much light as possible. Consequently, bright objects in the field of view become saturated and appear artificially large. In fact, Earth and the moon are each less than a pixel in size, and no details on either can be seen.