Mercury Transit

It was a beautiful morning! Alarm set for 4:30am, out of the house at 5am, setup just at sunrise on the old Saddle Road. The sun rose through low clouds over the grasslands of Parker Ranch with Waimea to one side and Mauna Kea on the other.

Mercury Transit 9May2016
Mercury transiting the Sun on May 9, 2016. Celestron C8 and Canon 6D at f/10.
Setting up a telescope as the Sun was rising seemed just wrong. I am used to breaking down a telescope as the Sun comes over the horizon at the end of a night’s observing. It is not often that an observing session results in my risking sunburn!

The seeing was pretty horrible at sunrise but rapidly improved as the Sun rose. As the transit ended the seeing was quite sharp and the photos not all that bad. At least as long as I kept the shutter speeds high. Visually the view was quite nice, a sharp black dot against the Sun, a far cry from the dancing blur you usually see when trying to view Mercury in the glow of Sunset.

Transit Telescope
The C8 set up along the old Saddle Road for Mercury Transit
Mercury was immediately visible as a small dot on the disk of the Sun. Towards the end it was a crisp dark dot, a drop of India ink on the solar disk. I watched through third and fourth contact, a nice black drop effect was visible for a few moments.

Despite the steady stream of commuters passing me only one random vehicle stopped, a ranch hand for Parker Ranch. I swapped the camera for an eyepiece and gave him a look. Don stopped by for a view as well after finding out where I was setup, his telescope is still in storage and he wanted a look.

After Mercury slipped back into the dark I broke down the telescope and headed for work. My chosen setup site just half a mile off my usual commute. These events are interesting to astro-nerds like myself, if not many of our fellow humans. Who else would set the alarm for 4:30am? Even without a transit it was simply a beautiful Hawaiian dawn. I was glad I got up and made the effort to set up the telescope.

Transit Panorama
Set up on the old Saddle Road surrounded by Parker Ranch range land with Mauna Kea in the background

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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