5.09.16 Transit of Mercury Telescope Viewing (Completed)

Transit of Mercury

A rather infrequent celestial event will be occurring in early May. The planet Mercury will pass across the face of the sun during the daylight hours of Monday, May 9th.

Telescopes will be set up for public viewing in front of the Southeast Ohio History Center/Athens County Historical Society building at the corner of West State St. and North Congress.

As Mercury, in its smaller orbit, catches up to the Earth and passes it, Mercury normally passes just below or just above the disc of the Sun. On this lap Mercury will be visible as a small black spot crossing the bright face of the Sun. Special solar scopes and regular telescopes fitted with appropriate filters will make this transit of Mercury visible to viewers.

Astronomers have been observing such transits of Mercury since 1631. A similar event, though much more rare, occurs with the planet Venus. Transits of Venus sparked the first worldwide scientific expeditions to some of the most remote locations on Earth. The expeditions were inspired by Edmund Halley, of Halley’s Comet fame. He proposed that data from detailed observations of the transit of Venus from such remote locations could be compared to determine the distance to the Sun, a distance completely unknown until such transit expeditions.

Telescopes will be set up for safe viewing between 9a.m. and 2p.m. on the sidewalk. Event is free and open to the public. For more information call Athens County Historical Society and Museum at 740-592-2280 or go to athenshistory.org.

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