It was a clear predawn sky that greeted Waimea this morning, perfect to watch the transit of Mercury across the Sun.
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!
Over a hundred local folks had come to enjoy an astronomical spectacle with us, the sky was clear, and we had the equipment to do it.
Just as the Sun could be seen through the trees everyone was startled by a hard and sharp tremor. A magnitude 4.9 occurred under the eastern flank of Mauna Kea, not very far away, shaking the building a bit. Everyone evacuated the conference room to the parking lot, right where we were finishing setting up the telescopes. Not a problem, the event went on.
There were half a dozen telescopes available to view through, plenty of eyepieces available for the crowd. A big thank you to the members of the West Hawaii Astronomy Club for the assist,the two observatory telescopes would have been hard pressed to give everyone a view. My thanks to Scott, Andrew, Maureen, Tony, and Berndt for bringing equipment to share!
I never had a chance to look through the other telescopes being busy taking photos with dozens of cell phones. I watched the last few moments through the eyepiece as Mercury slipped back into the darkness.
There will not be another transit until 2032, well over a decade away. We can say we did this transit justice, enjoying the view and sharing the wonder with everyone who came.