The Transit of Mercury


Another interesting phenomenon is when the two inner planets Mercury and Venus pass in front of the sun. I recall seeing the Transit of Mercury as a young lad from my front garden in 1973. Still buzzing from my eclipse trip in August 1999, I realised there was another Transit of Mercury visible on November 15th from the South West US. Well this seemed a great opportunity to pop over and see Glenn at Pocono West and do a little shopping, view a Transit of Mercury, and watch the Leonids from Death Valley. So that was it. Managed to get a cheap flight so off I went.

I had intended to take up an invitation from the Griffiths Observatory to join them in their front garden, but there appeared to be a couple of fronts moving in, so we decided to head inland instead. Eventually we ended up in Death Valley, and set up in a car park at the roadside. The sky was hazy, but I managed to get some images using a Meade ETX 90 with a 2x converter and the same TK1070 video camera that I used for the eclipse in August that year. Unfortunately the image was a bit bright, so a ripped Coors beer case was employed as a makeshift aperture mask.

A sequence of images captured from the Sony Video Walkman using a Neotec card

An animated Gif generated by Richard Robinson from the above images, the length of the transit is rather long and a little inaccurate as Richard had no reference point to match on the disk. This was due to me setting up the system in a hurry and not having an accurately aligned mount for the focal length! Either way it gives you an idea of what was happening.

The setup for recording the Transit. I took two lenses a 150 -500mm Tokina lens, and the ETX 90 (1250mm), and a OM 2x converter for extra mag if I needed it. I wasn't exactly sure what I would be able to see at what focal length.

Bucharesti 1999 . ............... Zimbabwe 2001

Transit of Mercury May 7th 2003 ............. Annular Eclipse May 31st 2003

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