Mercury Transit 2019

It was a clear predawn sky that greeted Waimea this morning, perfect to watch the transit of Mercury across the Sun.

The transit of Mercury on the morning of Nov 11, 2019
The transit of Mercury on the morning of Nov 11, 2019

An alarm set for o-dark-thirty and a drive to Waimea with the first glow of dawn behind the mauna. I did not have to pack a ‘scope as I would be using an observatory outreach telescope, just make sure I have camera gear ready.

Realistically I was expecting only a few folks in addition to the club members I knew were coming. A light crowd maybe? Thus I was rather surprised to find the parking lot filling quickly and our big conference room buzzing at 6am.

It was quite the crowd considering the Sun had not yet appeared over the shoulder of the mauna!

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Transit of Mercury Reminder

Mercury Transit 9May2016
Mercury transiting the Sun on May 9, 2016

Tomorrow morning, November 11th, there is a transit of Mercury. For observers here in the islands the event will be in progress when the sun rises, only the last hour and a half of the even visible.

You can read a full post with all of the event details here.

This is the last transit of Mercury until 2032, you might want to get out to see this one.

A Reminder on Safe Solar Viewing

With the transit of Mercury on Monday a reminder on how to view the Sun safely is in order. I have posted on this subject many times in the past and maintain a full post on the various techniques one can use to safely view the Sun.

Scott in the Sun
Scott showing folks the Sun with a white light solar filter

Since Mercury is quite small you will want a bit of magnification to view the event properly. If you do not have a good solar filter for your telescope come to a local event where telescopes are available.

On Hawaiʻi island you can either go to the W. M. Keck Observatory HQ in Waimea or Subaru Observatory HQ in Hilo. Both observatories are hosting transit events at dawn Monday morning 11 Nov, 2019.

These events start at 6am with webcasts of the transit from other observatories further east, with the Sun rising far enough to see the transit from 7-8am.

Transit of Mercury Nov 11, 2019

On November 11th, 2019 Mercury will transit the Sun. While transits of Mercury are not rare, they are not all that common either. The last transit was a few years ago in May of 2016. On average there are fourteen transits of Mercury each century or one every seven years. If you wish to observe one the situation is much better than transits of Venus which occur in pairs over a century apart.

Mercury Transit 9May2016
Mercury transiting the Sun on May 9, 2016. Celestron C8 and Canon 6D at f/10.

This particular transit will favor observers in Europe, South America, and the eastern seaboard of North America where the entire transit will be visible. Unfortunately for observers in the islands only the final hour and a half of the transit will be visible having begun well before local dawn. Sunrise will occur around 06:28 for the island of Hawaiʻi, with the transit ending at 08:04 in the morning when the Sun will be 20° above the horizon.

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Shadow on Shadow

I had a plan for this eclipse.

Partially eclipsed Moon rising above the shadow of Mauna Kea
A partially eclipsed Moon rises just above the shadow of Mauna Kea on January 20th, 2019.

I needed a quiet day to work on some code in the Keck 2 dome control PLC. One problem, every time I load code the dome lights go out. Guys working in the dome tend to object to the lights going out randomly.

Answer? Go up on a weekend when there as only a couple guys on duty and not a lot of work going on. I can have the whole telescope and dome to myself most of the day.

There is also a total lunar eclipse.

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Total Lunar Eclipse Reminder

Lunar Eclipse 28Aug2007
Total lunar eclipse August 28, 2007

This evening will feature a sunset total lunar eclipse visible across the islands. The eclipsed Moon will rise just as the Sun sets on the opposite horizon.

The eclipse will be just underway as the Moon rises on Hawaii island, with the Moon rising at almost exactly 18:00HST and the total phase of the eclipse starting 41 minutes later. Maximum will occur at 19:12HST with the Moon 14° above the horizon.

January 20, 2019 Total Lunar Eclipse
Event ContactUT HST
Penumbral BeginsP1 02:36:2816:36:28
Partial Begins U1 03:33:5517:33:55
Total Begins U2 04:41:1818:41:18
Greatest EclipseMax05:12:1819:12:18
Total Ends U3 05:43:1819:43:18
Partial Ends U4 06:50:4220:50:42
Penumbral Ends P4 07:48:0521:48:05
*Data from Fred Espenak’s eclipse website

An easy to view evening eclipse, no reason not to get out and view this one, no need for an alarm clock!

Jan 20th Total Lunar Eclipse

The next full Moon on January 20th, will feature a sunset total lunar eclipse visible across the islands. The eclipsed Moon will rise just as the Sun sets on the opposite horizon.

Total Lunar Eclipse Aug 28,2007
Total lunar eclipse August 28, 2007

The eclipse will be just underway as the Moon rises on the island of Hawaii, with the Moon rising at almost exactly 18:00HST and the total phase of the eclipse starting 41 minutes later. Maximum will occur at 19:12HST with the Moon 14° above the horizon.

January 20, 2019 Total Lunar Eclipse
Event ContactUT HST
Penumbral BeginsP1 02:36:2816:36:28
Partial Begins U1 03:33:5517:33:55
Total Begins U2 04:41:1818:41:18
Greatest EclipseMax05:12:1819:12:18
Total Ends U3 05:43:1819:43:18
Partial Ends U4 06:50:4220:50:42
Penumbral Ends P4 07:48:0521:48:05
Data from Fred Espenak’s eclipse website

Many references state that the eclipse will occur on January 21st, and it will, in time zones further east than us here in Hawaii. We are ten hours behind UT, thus it will be the evening of the 20th when the eclipse occurs in the islands.

An easy to view evening eclipse, no reason not to get out and view this one, no need for an alarm clock!