Mercury Transit 9 May 2016

20160509-Mercury Transit_O_Toumilovitch

As I always do next day after an important astronomical event, I check the web for any local (South African) news linked to it. I must say, the results are rather disappointing or news simply don’t exist. This time one small announcement has caught my attention, here it is:

“Eyewitness news
6/05/10/NASA-shares-images-of-Mercury-Transit
JOHANNESBURG – If you missed Mercury crossing the sun on Monday night, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) managed to capture the phenomenon during live streaming .. (http://ewn.co.za/201)”

Well, those who “ missed Mercury crossing the sun on Monday night” should prepare themselves for the next transit of Mercury, which takes place on November 11, 2019, and remember, planetary transits across the Sun can be observed from our planet only when the Sun is above the horizon.

According to weather forecast,  9th of May would be a clear day.  Equipment was decided upon and tested good few days before the event, I was looking forward to the Transit of Mercury.

It’s been 12 years since I imaged the transit of one of the inner planets across the Sun- the Transit of Venus, but it was still in my memory as if it was a couple of years ago. A lot has changed since then, the equipment, experience, imaging and processing techniques. But I guess, what remains with every astronomer and astro-photographer in particular, is the passion and clear understanding of the event.

When the day has come, I realized, that I need to make a decision on weather to stay at home or to pack the equipment and to drive some 400 km North to a friend’s farm in Waterberg, where the satellite images showed much better possibility of clear sky. In Johannesburg we had fast moving clouds from early morning and there were more and more coming by the minute.

Message from the friend arrived shortly and it has cooled me down:

“I have been planning to image the Mercury transit using the Maksutov,  but alas it is very cloudy this morning..”

Well, it was 50/50 Johannesburg vs. Waterberg, so I chose to stay.

By 12:00 the watch and the camera’s clock were synchronized with the GPS time, everything was set up and ready. I’ve decided to video-record from the start of Ingress phase of the transit and to photograph later.

Even though I new exactly (within 5 arc minutes) where the Mercury will appear, the appearance was sudden time wise and it was exciting – it appeared just as a cloud moved away from the Sun. From then on, I happily imaged the event starting at 11:13 UT, with the last image acquired at 14:24 UT, when the disc of the Sun finally touched the roof of the house.

Due to constantly moving clouds, the observing conditions were poor, which was the main factor, reducing the resolution of the images.

mercury_transit_20160509_O_Toumilovitch

This image is a single still image, which was acquired with Canon EOS-550D DSLR at prime focus of 100 mm F/10 TAL-100 refractor telescope with full aperture black polymer Solar filter, the same telescope, which was used for imaging 2004 Venus Transit. (http://astronomical.co.za/venus_transit.html)

All together 40 video clips and over 300 still images of the event were captured, two more family members and two friends have observed the part of the event through the telescope during last hour.


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