WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Mercury to transit in front of sun

Posted May 8, 2016

There will be a little black dot will be on the sun Monday. Mercury will transit or pass in front of the sun from our vantage point here on Earth. Unlike total an eclipse, that’s no invisible sun. Viewing this event safely requires a telescope with the proper filter.

You can safely view the transit at a pair of free events staffed by area amateur astronomers. They generally don't mind if you stand so close either.

Volunteers from the Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society will gather at the sundial in front of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Volunteers from the Raleigh Astronomy Club will also be at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS) will help you safely view the event with solar telescopes. Observing will be available in the Bicentennial Plaza between the Natural Sciences and History museums from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. Astronomers from the museum’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Lab will also have solar telescope views available on the fourth floor green roof of the Nature Research Center from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.

There will be free talks at the NCMNS from 11:00 am to noon in the Daily Planet Theater. At 11:00am Dr. Rachel L. Smith, who leads the Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Lab presents a talk titled “Planet One: A Brief Tour of History and Discovery on Mercury, ” I’ll be sharing more about the history of transits and how they shape our view of our solar system and others at 11:30 am.

After standing outside in the pouring rain last Friday interviewing astronaut Rex Walheim ahead of his talk at the museum, the forecast for Monday looks more promising. Any threat of rain is expected to end well before sunrise and partly cloudy skies should provide at least intermittent views of the transit throughout the 6 hour event.

The museum will also share live views of the event via NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in the Daily Planet theater. While you are at there, be sure to check out the lunar sample presented to the people of North Carolina by NASA collected during the Apollo 17 astronauts walking on the moon.

If there is no political solution and you just can not make it away from work or school to either event, don't be driven to tears. NASA plans live events online.

You can view the transit live from SDO and elsewhere from their transit page. A live roundtable is also planned with NASA's planetary science director Jim Green, heliophysics program scientist Lika Guhathakurta, and Exoplanet Exploration Program scientist Doug Hudgins. Is planned from 10:30 am to 11:30 am on NASA's Facebook page. I've worked with Lika and Jim on previous heliosphysics projects before, you don't want to miss their passion and knowledge of the subject and great skill in making it relevant to everyday life here on Earth.

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  • Frank Curcio May 9, 2016
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    Hats off to your Police song references.