Don’t Miss the Rare Celestial Event ‘Mercury Transit’ on May 9!
Mangaluru: A rare celestial event will occur on Monday, May 9, 2016. If missed, one can see it only after 16 years – on November 13, 2032.
Prof Hiranya Jayantha, the head of the department of Chemistry at St Agnes College who is at the forefront of the Amateur Astronomers’ Association of Mangaluru, says that arrangement has been made at two spots in the city for the benefit of the general public – the terrace of the MCC commercial complex (housing Parampara and Mangaluru One) in Kadri-Mallikatte and at the Pilikula Regional Science Centre – to enjoy the spectacle in broad daylight.
Those interested in skywatching and astronomy will have an opportunity to study this rare celestial occurrence and study its various stages. Missing it would only entail a long wait until 2032.
Although the delayed monsoons have brought about a pall of gloom in and around town, on a ‘brighter’ note, it can be said that absence of clouds may be a blessing in disguise at least on Monday evening.
An official of the Union ministry of earth sciences said, “Depending upon the sunset time of different places in India, the observers located in the extreme east of the country (Port Blair) will see the event for about one hour from the beginning (4-41 PM) while the ones located in the extreme west (Dwarka in Gujarat) will be able to see it for about 2 hours and 45 minutes from 4.41 PM onwards.”
According to the ministry, it would be difficult to see the transit without optical magnification.
“This event can be viewed with the help of binoculars or telescope attached with a proper solar filter or by making a projection of the Sun’s image on a white board by telescope.”
The ministry explains that such a transit of Mercury over the disc of the Sun happens only when the Sun, the Mercury, and the Earth are lined up in one plane. It appears as a dot (black spot) on the solar disc because its angular size is very small compared to that of the Sun as seen from the Earth.
The event can be seen from 4-41 pm onwards in all parts of India – in Delhi, for a duration of about 2 hours 20 minutes from 4-41 pm onwards, in Kolkata for 1 hour and 26 minutes, in Mumbai for 2 hours 24 minutes and for about 1 hour 45 minutes in Chennai.
Such astronomical event had last occurred on November 6, 2006 and only the end of the event was visible from the extreme north-eastern parts of India. While, the next transit of Mercury will take place on November 11, 2019,the event will not be seen from India as it will begin after the sunset time of all places in the country.
The phenomenon is a relatively rare one which occurs 13 or 14 times in a century. It occurs in the month of 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.
The German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was the first person to predict a Mercury transit event, although he did not observe one himself. His prediction of a transit on November 7th, 1631 enabled the French mathematician and astronomer Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) to observe it, in the year following Kepler’s death.
CAUTION: Please do not attempt, out of curiosity, to look at the sun direct during this time, even through dark or filtered glasses, as doing so could seriously affect the eyesight. It should be viewed only through a professional, filtered telescope.