Te transit of Mercury.
On November 15, 1999, between 2 and 3 in the afternoon, the planet
Mercury passed between the earth and the sun. Since I had the
equipment to view sunspots, this was
a chance which I couldn't pass up. Even though a transit of Mercury occurs
on average every
8 years or so, I had never seen one myself. Since Mercury made only
a tiny black speck on the sun's face, right near the edge, I'm sure that
many children did not actually see it, but we are near the maximum of the
solar cycle, so there were lots and lots of sunspots to be seen, and
a good time was had by all.
On November 8, 2006, there was another transit of Mercury, this time lasting 5 hours, and
Santa Fe was ideally located to see the whole
thing. We set up the sunspotter on the ground in front of the school
to watch the start of the transit at lunchtime, and many kids marked Mercury and a lone sunspot on their
Then at 3PM, when school let out, many of the kids marked the new position of
We are just coming out of a sunspot minimum, so we were lucky to have a sunspot for comparison.
| I also put together a quick-and-dirty observation unit using (half of) a
pair of binoculars, plus some paper, sticks and cardboard. I protected the binoculars by
covering one side completely, and the other side mostly with a sheet of paper. The 1-cm
hole lets enough light through for a good-size image.
|| The image was about 3 inches across, plenty big to see the sunspot
and Mercury (though not visible in this photograph).
8 November 2006