Mercury Transit across the Sun
Monday May 9, 2016
By Ray Kaville
Skies started out cloudy with open spots and overcast – cleared late morning
Temps in the 40s and low fifties early on, upwards of 65 after noon
visibility was decent with haze – no complaints about the occasional drifting clouds. Balmy breezes and plenty of sunshine. Beautiful location. All in all, a perfect day.
Lots of Hawks and Buzzards and smaller birds including black flies and flying ants.
Location: Marion Road, Cheshire CT
After pre-loading my car on Sunday night, I jumped out of bed at 6am, grabbed a quick breakfast and beat it up to the north end of Cheshire arriving on scene at Dave J.’s new home around 7:10a.m. Already on scene were Bob C., Dave J. Cheryl and Greg B. As I frantically began setup I heard Dave announce “first contact!” I guess it was about 7:15 when I finally reached first light. Mercury was clearly visible as a tack sharp black spot just off the limb of Sol. Additionally there was a large sunspot with dark markings in the center of Sol and one that was just as large, but not as pronounced just above that. Greg and Cheryl were rolling and Andy P. was set up with his custom solar scope setup. A new member, John P. arrived shortly thereafter.
Greg had his 40mm Coronado HA tweaked out and ready and Dave had his Coronado PFT HA scope setup with a nice solar blind. Bob C. and Gaianne were manning their salad bowl mounts using a projection setup onto an external surface. Cheryl had her 10″ reflector and big binocs both with white light filters. I had my 6″ Celestron with white light filter (eventually) and we all began announcing excellent views and shadow positions as the clouds came and went.
The Coronados showed some excellent prominences, surface detailing and filaments all over the Sun. One filament was massive extending from the center of the dark sunspot to beyond its outer edge. It was exciting to view sunspots in white light, and then be able to jump over for some excellent HA views of the prominences and filaments that we would not normally be able to compare!
Traffic passing by Dave and Gina’s new home was busy. Several police patrols passed by addressing traffic issues and an amazing number of school buses ran helter skelter back and forth. Most slowed out of curiosity. In fact, there were a lot more stops in front of Dave’s house than at the stop sign across the street. We had a few passers-by who Bob C. snagged and a few people stopping in specifically to check out the views. You know, as members of this club we impress a whole lot of people! The things we do as a club impact everyone that comes close to us.
A little bit later Donna arrived to share some views, and shortly afterwards Leo arrived and set up his refractor with white light filter for picture taking. Don S stopped by primed to shoot some photos with his digital zoom camera and custom made Baader solar filter. After realizing he was missing a part to do that, Don mounted his digital camera onto my 6″ optical tube (to an accessory 1/4″ mount I’d never tried before) and began shooting images through his telephoto lens.
Greg and Cheryl spotted a slim crescent (3 day moon) moon following the sun which we all explored naked eye and through Cheryl’s 10″ reflector. Great views of a daytime object! We spent some time flipping between that and the sun and Castle Craig in Hubbard Park in Meriden which was very prominent far in the distance. Right around 14:00 we began to plan our exit strategy. The ink black shadow of Mercury was rapidly making its way to the exit limb and we were preparing for the final shadow transit into blackness. Something I found very interesting was that the white light filters displayed the blending of Mercury’s shadow with the edge and the final exit much earlier than the HA filtered devices. I estimate the white light filters showed the ending events about a minute before the HA filtered devices. Not sure why that is.
A great big THANK YOU to Dave and Gina for their excellent hospitality and the large array of breakfast and lunch food, drinks and COFFEE! and of course the rest room facilities. This was an amazing event which we may not get to experience again, and a huge amount of fun!! A perfect day! We don’t get to say that a whole lot. This IS the world’s greatest hobby!
It’s always a distinct pleasure sharing our hobby with everyone who stops by! ASNH has a superb bunch of people. We share that superb quality with the public, and they all walk away with a better feeling about astronomy.