Transit of Mercury – May 9, 2016

On May 9th, 2016, students, faculty, and staff observed the transit of Mercury from the steps in front of Miller Library.  This rare astronomical event happens only when the orbital planes of Mercury, Earth, and the Sun align while Mercury passes directly between the Earth and the Sun (roughly once per decade).  This transit is similar to a solar eclipse, where the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, but because Mercury is so much farther away than the Moon, it only blocks a small spot on the sun, which would be imperceptible to the unaided human eye.

We had telescopes equipped with solar filters set up in front of Miller Library to safely view the event, which occurred from roughly 7:15am – 2:45pm.  Some pictures from the event are below.

Students observing the Mercury Transit on Miller Lawn.

Students observing the Mercury Transit on Miller Lawn.

 

Magnified image of the Sun viewed through an 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Mercury's shadow is the black dot in the lower right. A sunspot group can be seen near the top of the image. Patchy regions are passing clouds.

Magnified image of the Sun viewed through one of Colby’s 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes. Mercury’s shadow is the black dot in the lower right (it passed from left to right across the image over the course of 7.5 hours). A sunspot group can be seen near the top of the image. Patchy regions are passing clouds.