May 9, 2016

"On Monday, May 9, the planet Mercury will make a rare transit of the sun..."

"... and... the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Astronomy will open Washburn Observatory to the public for safe viewing of the event."
A telescope is necessary to see Mercury’s small disk against the large backdrop of the sun. It would take about 150 Mercury disks to span a solar diameter, [says Jim Lattis, director of UW Space Place]...
“Aiming a telescope or binoculars at the sun is a dangerous operation, requiring special equipment and techniques, and therefore best left to skilled observers. A full-aperture solar filter properly fitted to the front of the telescope is a good way to observe this event, but make sure no finder telescopes or other devices are exposed to the direct sunlight. It is possible to project the image of the sun formed by a telescope or binoculars onto a screen, and the image projected on the screen is safe to observe. However, there is still a serious hazard in the intense beam of sunlight, which can cause instantaneous eye damage and even start fires. Moreover, many telescopes and binoculars will be damaged by the intense heat, while finder telescopes and sights present further dangers. Do not look directly at the sun without appropriate filters, and do not point optical equipment at the sun unless you know exactly what you are doing.”
Washburn Observatory is at 1401 Observatory Drive, here in Madison, and it's open now and until2 p.m. today.

University of Wisconsin

That's a picture I took of the observatory a while back, on a cloudy day. But today's not cloudy, or there would be no viewing of the transit.

12 comments:

Danno said...

I remember that. Right across from Liz Waters!

campy said...

John Philip Sousa wrote a march to commemorate an 1882 transit of Venus.

No march for Mercury.

Yet another example of female privilege.

Original Mike said...

Boy, if it's not cloudy in your back yard I'll be right over with the telescope, because it's sure cloudy in mine.

Looks like today's transit will be a bust in Madison. I got to see the much more rare Venus transit in 2012. That was cool.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

As an aficionado of the stage you should keep an eye out for the Transit of Venus play Professor--based on a true story and a testament to how seriously some scientists take/took their calling.

Darrell said...

This is seen to portend the end of the world. NeverTrumpers rejoice.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/667866/END-OF-THE-WORLD-FEARS-Mercury-transit-linked-to-Biblical-destruction-prophecy

Original Mike said...

Confirmed: Mercury is transiting the sun. Clouds thinned enough for a brief observation. Nice sunspot group too.

Original Mike said...

Well, that was a lot of work for 30 seconds of observing (I really need a grab-n-go scope), but I got to log a Mercury transit so worth the effort.

Rusty said...

The sun is behind a cloudy mantle in this area of Illinois.

Terry said...

Once every six or seven years is not 'rare.'

Fernandinande said...

Piltzintecuhtli is the sun's little brother, guides the underworld, and is the god of psychedelic plants. A versatile planet.

Scott said...

The University used to have another observatory out in Pine Bluff. Take Mineral Point Rd out to the stop sign in Pine Bluff (used to be a tavern on each corner), take a right on County P. Observatory Road is on your left just a short ride down Cty P. In fact, the first left I believe. Don't know their hours, but you might be able to call. In any case, it's a nice ride. We used to take the Pine Bluff girls parking up there in the late 50's. Probably need a Notary Public to do that now...

Original Mike said...

@Scott - Pine Bluff became the working observatory when Washburn became unusable due to light pollution.