ISU is getting ready for the transit of Mercury!
On Monday, 9th May 2016, the tiny planet Mercury transited the solar disc for 7.5 hours. This is a rare event and, on this occasion, was not missed by ISU’s Master of Space Studies (MSS16) students !
Observing the Sun without a properly tested and safe filter can result in instant blindness. Hence, this transit of Mercury was observed at ISU via a 20 cm astronomical telescope equipped with a broadband filter. The minute disc of the planet majestically silhouetted against the luminous solar backdrop was a memorable spectacle.
A transit of Mercury involves the fortuitous alignment of the planet Earth, the planet Mercury and the Sun, with Mercury being in the middle. Basically, it looks like a total solar eclipse, but on a vastly smaller scale.
Such a phenomenon happens 13-14 times per century and. However, because of the different inclinations of these three bodies’ orbits, the almost perfect alignment as seen on Monday will not occur again for another 33 years… And the last identical transit dates back as far as 1799. A good reason not to have neglected it!
For those who lost out, prepare your telescopes and solar filters: the next transit of Mercury will occur in November 2019!