Astronomers Enlighten Enthusiasts on Mercury

Amateur Astronomers Enlighten Enthusiasts on Mercury’s Transit!

Mangaluru: The terrace of MCC complex at Mallikatta-Kadri in the city, otherwise a desolate rooftop, was abuzz with human movement after 4-30 pm on Monday, May 9.

A team from the Mangaluru Amateur Astronomers’ Club led by scientist K V Rao and retired academic Prof H Jayantha, had set up shot to enable the public to watch the spectacle of planet Mercury’s passing across the sun.

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Skywatchers curiously watched a black dot moving across the solar disc, caught by large-sized telescopes and the image caught on white paper sheets. The indefatigable Prof Jayantha and Dr K V Rao, answering all the questions with all patience, explained the astronomical phenomenon that occurs only 13 times in a century.

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As reported already, the transit of Mercury was first recorded by French astronomer Pierre Gassendi. He observed it through a telescope in 1631, two decades after the instrument was invented.

German astronomer Johannes Kepler had correctly predicted that transit but died in 1630 before he could witness the event.

Although the phenomenon will occur in 2019, followed by 2032 and 2049, it will be seen in Mangaluru only in 2032, a long way to go.

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This event takes place when the Sun, Mercury and Earth all lineup and the smallest recognised planet in the solar system is seen as a small black dot travelling from one end of the solar disc to the other.

It lasted about 7 to 8 hours, but visible in Mangaluru only from 4-42 pm up to sunset, for just about 2 hours.

The Mercury transit occurs 13 or 14 times in a century in May and November. The interval between one November transit and next November transit may be 7, 13 or 33 years whereas the interval between one May transit and the next May transit may be 13 or 33 years.

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This last occurred on November 6, 2006, when just the end of the event was visible from the extreme northeastern parts of India at sunrise.

Those who missed watching it on May 9 would get a chance to see on November 11, 2019, but only by travelling abroad. Within India, one would have to wait for another 16 years – until November 13, 2032, to be precise.

Prof Jayantha and Dr K V Rao both took care enough to caution the gathering every now and then not to look at the sun even out of plain curiosity since doing so could cause permanent eye damage.

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Chetan Ganesh, one of the enthusiasts who had turned up with his little daughter, had taken care to bring certified solar goggles for her to watch through.

The recommended technique to see the sun direct is by using a filter like aluminized mylar, black polymer or welding glass of shade number 14.

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The exact turnout of people who turned up in Kadri could not be gauged as they kept coming and leaving after having a glimpse.

In all, it was a successful presentation. Mangalorean.com team also set up its own telescope, which also helped the gathering to enjoy the spectacle more comfortably.

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