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Mercury Transit - November 9

Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand . Email Newsletter Supplement, 8 November 2006

Mercury Transit - November 9

Mercury transits the sun on Thursday November 9 NZDT. The entire five- hour event is visible from New Zealand. Information about the transit is on the RASNZ's website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/

The transit starts at 8.12 a.m. Mercury will appear closest to the centre of the Sun at 10:41 a.m. when it will be 7 arc minutes off centre with the Sun's semi-diameter (radius) being 16.1 minutes.

The transit ends around 1:08 p.m. as Mercury's disk begins to exit from the sun's face. It is completely of the sun by 1:10.

Mercury's silhouette will appear as a very tiny dot on the sun, only 1/180th of the sun's diameter.

A small telescope will be needed to see the transit. NORMAL PRECAUTIONS FOR VIEWING THE SUN MUST BE TAKEN. That is a suitable, specially designed filter needs to be used, or the image should be projected onto a screen.

A number of observatories will be open for public viewing of the transit (weather permitting!) Details I have received of those that are opening are on the RASNZ web site, above.

New Zealand observers should make the most of this transit of Mercury. The next transit fully visible from NZ will be on the afternoon of 9 November 2052. Of the four transits between 2006 and 2052, no part of the one on 2016 May 9 is visible from New Zealand, On 2019 November 11 the Sun will set while the transit is in progress, while it will rise with a transit in progress on 2032 November 13 and 2039 November 7.

The transit of Venus in 2012 will be fully visible from New Zealand.

A factsheet is available from the Astronomical Society of Australia's website at http://www.astronomy.org.au/ngn/engine.php?SID=1000011&AID=100283 It gives much background information, useful for answering public and news media enquiries. It also gives times of the transit's start and end at several Australasian cities.


Websites for the transit


For most people the best option is to view the transit on websites. (Given the weather forecasts for most of New Zealand, it will probably be the only option!)

A selection of websites is listed below.

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Observations will be made by the U.S. National Science Foundation's Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG). Four of GONG's six telescopes will record the silhouette of Mercury as it crosses in front of the Sun. The observations will be made by GONG telescopes located in Australia, Hawaii, California, and Chile. The images will be updated every ten minutes on the Internet, and a movie of the event as seen from each of the four sites will be constructed as the transit progresses.

The web page for the GONG transit images is located at http://gong.nso.edu/mercury_transit06/ The page contains links to other transit sites. A composite image of the 2003 Mercury transit as observed from the GONG site in Udaipur, India, is shown.

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The U.S. National Science Foundation's Kitt Peak National Observatory and the Exploratorium are joining forces to present a live view of the transit.

The coverage from Kitt Peak, Arizona, broadcast on the Web by a mobile multimedia team from the Exploratorium, will include a live image of the transit as seen through a white-light filter on a Meade 16-inch telescope operated by the national observatory for public outreach, plus live voiceover commentary at the top of every hour and interviews with astronomers on Kitt Peak.

For more information and to watch the event live, go to www.exploratorium.edu/transit

Interviewees from Kitt Peak will include scientist Andrew Potter of the National Solar Observatory, who will using the transit to make special observations of Mercury's thin atmosphere as seen against the known background composition of the Sun, using the world's largest solar telescope, the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope.

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University of Hawaii astronomers will use special telescopes at the summits of Haleakala and Mauna Kea to transmit live images of the transit over the Internet as a "Mercury Transit Hawaiian Style" webcast.

For more information and to view the event live, go to http://astroday.net/MercTransit06.html

The webcast will include real-time images of the transit from professional and amateur astronomers in a variety of wavelengths of light, including white light, hydrogen-alpha, and calcium-K. Sets of images will also be compiled into time-lapse movies of the transit and will be updated every half hour.

The webcast is a collaboration among the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA), University of Hawaii at Hilo Physics and Astronomy Department, and the Haleakala Amateur Astronomers.

The images of the transit will be supplemented on the webcast by interviews with scientists at the IfA Manoa campus, at the Haleakala High Altitude Observatory Site and the IfA Waiakoa facility on Maui, and at the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. Scientists will include IfA astronomers Robert McLaren (associate director), Jeffrey Kuhn (associate director, Haleakala Division), Stuart Jefferies, Shadia Habbal, Bobby Bus and J. D. Armstrong; Dave Blewett, the principal scientist of NovaSol; and Chris Peterson, manager of the NASA Data Center at UH Manoa. Members of the Haleakala Amateur Astronomers, staff of the Visitor Information Station and students of University of Hawaii at Hilo will also be interviewed.


-- thanks to Karen Pollard ,Brian Loader, Larry Marschall and John Hearnshaw for providing or forwarding the above information

ENDS

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