Observers welcome to see the “transit of Mercury” at UM-Dearborn Nov. 8
November 3, 2006
DEARBORN / Nov. 3, 2006---The new astronomical observation facilities at the University of Michigan-Dearborn will get a rare daytime work-out on the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 8, when viewers, weather permitting, will be able to see Mercury pass in front of the Sun.
The observing area is located on the third floor UM-Dearborn’s Science Learning and Research Center, which includes stations to mount telescopes for visual observing and gathering data.
The “transit of Mercury” is a relatively rare event, happening only around a dozen times per century. “Viewers may not want to wait until the next transit of Mercury, since it will not occur until May 9, 2016,” according to Eric Rasmussen, a 1994 UM-Dearborn alumnus who teaches in the astronomy program at Henry Ford Community College. HFCC is a cosponsor of this event.
A transit occurs when one celestial body appears to move across the face of another celestial body, as seen by an observer at some particular vantage point. Observation of transits has been important in the history of astronomy since they allowed observers to make more accurate calculations of the relative size and distance of objects in the solar system.
Viewing of the Nov. 8 transit will begin at 2 p.m. with Mercury due to begin crossing the face of the Sun around 2:12 p.m. The planet will cross slightly more than halfway across face of the Sun when the Sun sets and viewing ends around 5 p.m. The observing session is free and open to the public.
During the transit, Mercury will appear as a small black dot crossing the face of the Sun. If clouds obscure the view from this area, visitors will be able to see live video feeds of the transit from other locations with clear conditions, and hear descriptions of the event from Rasmussen, who has coordinated amateur astronomy events in the area for years.
The telescopes will have filters to allow safe observation of the Sun. Viewers in other locations should take similar precautions and not stare at the sun or look at it through telescopes or binoculars to avoid eye damage.