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Tags astronomy , eclipses

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Old 3rd November 2019, 03:33 PM   #1
Notrump
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Wink A UFO will cross the Sun on Nov 11. Or perhaps it will be Mercury.

No, that tiny disc that can be seen racing in front of the Sun on November 11th will not be an ET’s flying saucer.

The innermost planet Mercury will appear to transit the disk of the Sun on 2019 NOV 11 for observers in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Near East and New Zealand. This will be the last Mercury transit until 2032, and until 2049 for North Americans.

As with a Solar Eclipse, great care must be taken to protect eyes. If not accompanied by an expert in solar viewing, it may be wise to simply watch online live videos of the transit.

I’ve created graphics depicting the transit as viewed from various cities. They can be seen at https://www.CurtRenz.com/mertran.html

Photos and descriptions of the transit would be welcome additions to this thread.

Last edited by Notrump; 3rd November 2019 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 3rd November 2019, 07:25 PM   #2
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11:30 pm to 5:00 am. Great. At least I won't have to worry about eye damage.
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Old 3rd November 2019, 07:29 PM   #3
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This looks like a possible chance to use my eclipse binoculars again. Though the magnification may or may not be enough to see the dot that way.
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Old 3rd November 2019, 07:31 PM   #4
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Thanks for the information.
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Old 3rd November 2019, 11:49 PM   #5
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One thing I do not understand. Two facts that I cannot reconcile.

1. Mercury and Venus both come roughly between us and the sun several times a year, yet it is rare for them to come directly between us and the sun.
2. We can find planets going around other stars because these planets go between us and their sun. When we observe this we see it happen every time.

Would have thought that planets going around other suns would rarely go between their sun and us for the same reason that Mercury and Venus rarely go between the sun and us.
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Old 4th November 2019, 01:08 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
One thing I do not understand. Two facts that I cannot reconcile.

1. Mercury and Venus both come roughly between us and the sun several times a year, yet it is rare for them to come directly between us and the sun.
2. We can find planets going around other stars because these planets go between us and their sun. When we observe this we see it happen every time.

Would have thought that planets going around other suns would rarely go between their sun and us for the same reason that Mercury and Venus rarely go between the sun and us.

It's my understanding that this is because of the the difference in observation distance and relative motion. We can observe planetary transits across distant stars no matter where in our orbit we are, as long as something local doesn't interpose itself, as at that scale we are essentially immobile viewers. In our local system however we are moving quite rapidly relative to and at different orbital periods than our friendly neighborhood rocks.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:29 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
One thing I do not understand. Two facts that I cannot reconcile.

1. Mercury and Venus both come roughly between us and the sun several times a year, yet it is rare for them to come directly between us and the sun.
2. We can find planets going around other stars because these planets go between us and their sun. When we observe this we see it happen every time.

Would have thought that planets going around other suns would rarely go between their sun and us for the same reason that Mercury and Venus rarely go between the sun and us.

Excellent question, rjho1. We can thank TalosMarr for a correct explanation, nevertheless I'll elaborate.

When Mercury or Venus is in inferior conjunction, it is significantly closer to Earth than Sun is to Earth. This is particularly true for Venus. The percentage difference in the case of an exoplanet is insignificant, and the angular perspective is barely variant.

From the perspective of the Sun, when Earth and Venus appear in conjunction, the angular separation can range from 0˚ to 3.4˚. But as viewed from Earth when Venus is in inferior conjunction, the angular separation between Venus and Sun can range from 0˚ to 8.4˚, while the angular diameter of Sun is only 0.5˚.

Transits of Mercury or Venus must occur at not only an inferior conjunction, but also when the planet is near a node, which is on the line of intersection between the orbital planes of that planet and Earth.

Venus averages an inferior conjunction every 1.6 years. and Mercury 0.32 years. Nevertheless, Venus appears to transit Sun an average of less than two times per century, while Mercury does so about 13 times per century.

Last edited by Notrump; 4th November 2019 at 10:32 AM.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:43 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Notrump View Post
No, that tiny disc that can be seen racing in front of the Sun on November 11th will not be an ETís flying saucer.

The innermost planet Mercury will appear to transit the disk of the Sun on 2019 NOV 11 for observers in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Near East and New Zealand. This will be the last Mercury transit until 2032, and until 2049 for North Americans.

As with a Solar Eclipse, great care must be taken to protect eyes. If not accompanied by an expert in solar viewing, it may be wise to simply watch online live videos of the transit.

Iíve created graphics depicting the transit as viewed from various cities. They can be seen at https://www.CurtRenz.com/mertran.html

Photos and descriptions of the transit would be welcome additions to this thread.
I think I might still have my eclipse glasses, from 2017, around somewhere.
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:04 AM   #9
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Mercury is smaller than many sunspots. Without magnification, you'll be lucky to see anything. DO NOT THINK of using regular binoculars or telescopes IN FRONT of your eclipse glasses.

Best and safest way to view it for 99.9+ % of people is by watching one of the internet live feeds from the guys with fancy expensive telescopes.

Last edited by ceptimus; 4th November 2019 at 11:07 AM.
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:07 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
Would have thought that planets going around other suns would rarely go between their sun and us for the same reason that Mercury and Venus rarely go between the sun and us.
You're correct.

1) We *can't* see most planets around other stars this way. But we can do the geometry math and guess that if we can actually see planets around "x" stars, that it means that if the orbits are aligned randomly that there's another "y" stars with planets that we can't see.

2) As you get closer to the sun, the volume of space that you can see due to transits decreases. Imagine a cone with the vertex at your eye, and the base at the sun. You can see transits of any planet that enters the cone. As you approach the sun, the cone decreases in size and there are fewer things you can see. For remote stellar systems, the cone is so tall that it's basically a cylinder within that system.
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Old 4th November 2019, 11:40 AM   #11
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I still have my eclipse binoculars and an eclipse filter for my DSLR. I think I even know where they are!

ETA: Curt, do you have data for the Seattle area? Or shall we just assume it'll be cloudy anyway, which is not a bad assumption.
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Old 4th November 2019, 12:31 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
I still have my eclipse binoculars and an eclipse filter for my DSLR. I think I even know where they are!

ETA: Curt, do you have data for the Seattle area? Or shall we just assume it'll be cloudy anyway, which is not a bad assumption.

As per your request, transit charts for Seattle have now been posted on my Mercury Transit webpage: https://www.curtrenz.com/mertran.html
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Old 4th November 2019, 01:24 PM   #13
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I've had success mounting my binoculars or a telescope pointed at the Sun and projecting the image coming out the eyepiece onto a white surface. In fact, I showed it to my entire 2nd-grade class at the time.

You want to line it up using the projected image and not through the eyepieces, of course.
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Old 4th November 2019, 02:03 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
Would have thought that planets going around other suns would rarely go between their sun and us for the same reason that Mercury and Venus rarely go between the sun and us.
I'll rephrase other peoples correct explanations in order to add another point.

We don't see transits frequently because the orbits of Mercury, Venus, and Earth are all tilted. For the situation in this solar system, the tilt means that most of the times when Venus or Mercury pass "in front" of the Sun, they will pass either above it or below it. The only times when we'll see a transit is when the Earth is near the one line of intersection that Earth's orbit shares with the other planet (the "node" that was mentioned earlier).

For distant star systems that distance means that the tilt of our orbit doesn't mean much at all and neither does our orbit*. Earth is essentially a stationary point. If Earth is on a line that intersects both that distant star and the planet orbiting it then we are in that planets orbital plane and will be every orbit it makes.

However, "the same reason" that you referred to may also be in play in that distant star system. The planetary orbits in that system may also have different tilts. What that means to us though is that those planets will never transit the star from our point of view. You probably already know that the transit method requires the distant star system be view "edge on" and only works for a small percentage of systems that are properly oriented towards us. However, it also means that even in a system that has some well oriented planetary orbits, not all planets in that system will necessarily have similar opportune orbits.

* There are some edge cases where those factors matter.

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Old 4th November 2019, 02:24 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Notrump View Post
As per your request, transit charts for Seattle have now been posted on my Mercury Transit webpage: https://www.curtrenz.com/mertran.html
Awesome, thanks so much!
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Old 4th November 2019, 03:33 PM   #16
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Thanks to all for answering my question.
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Old 4th November 2019, 03:56 PM   #17
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Surely that's an IFO?
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Old 4th November 2019, 04:02 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Squeegee Beckenheim View Post
Surely that's an IFO?
If you're going to insist that Mercury is flying you need to go to the Star Wars thread.
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:33 AM   #19
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Here's my chart showing who's in and who's out for the transit.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg TM-2019.jpg (46.2 KB, 21 views)
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Old 5th November 2019, 02:04 PM   #20
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I have admitted - and shown - that I am stupid. Will I be able to see this from my location, North of San Francisco? Thanks.
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Old 5th November 2019, 02:32 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
I have admitted - and shown - that I am stupid. Will I be able to see this from my location, North of San Francisco? Thanks.

For you the Sun will rise while Mercury is already in transit. However, weather permitting you will be able to observe a little more than half of the transit.

See my transit chart for San Francisco, and that should be good enough for you: https://www.CurtRenz.com/mertran.html
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Old 5th November 2019, 02:36 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Notrump View Post
For you the Sun will rise while Mercury is already in transit. However, weather permitting you will be able to observe a little more than half of the transit.

See my transit chart for San Francisco, and that should be good enough for you: https://www.CurtRenz.com/mertran.html
Thanks so much.
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Old 5th November 2019, 02:40 PM   #23
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From a layperson with experience: The transit of Venus was spectacular. You could see it without binocs.

The transit of Mercury is really hard to see, I suspect you need strong binocs to find it.

Still fun.
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Old 5th November 2019, 04:19 PM   #24
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Cool

Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
From a layperson with experience: The transit of Venus was spectacular. You could see it without binocs.

The transit of Mercury is really hard to see, I suspect you need strong binocs to find it.

Still fun.

Thanks for your helpful input, Ginger. However, let's remind folks that viewing a transit by naked eye can cause blindness. That is even more certain with binoculars or telescopes unless adequate filters have been fitted, or a projection method is employed. For most people, watching a live presentation online would be the most prudent option.
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Old 7th November 2019, 11:09 AM   #25
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For those of you who miss the transit due to inclement weather on Monday, I've assembled this short list of alternative dates for you.


Last edited by Notrump; 7th November 2019 at 12:15 PM.
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Old 7th November 2019, 04:10 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Notrump View Post
Thanks for your helpful input, Ginger. However, let's remind folks that viewing a transit by naked eye can cause blindness. That is even more certain with binoculars or telescopes unless adequate filters have been fitted, or a projection method is employed. For most people, watching a live presentation online would be the most prudent option.
Reminder is fine. I have proper sun viewing wielder's glass and proper protection when I use the binocs on the Sun. You must put the filter on the light coming into the binocs and not just covering your eyes.

I've been viewing sunspots for more than 2 decades. I must be doing it right.

Looking at that chart, it looks like this is the last of 'frequent' passes. The next one isn't until 2032. While past recent transits were more frequent.

BTW, I absolutely love your posts and your website.

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Old 9th November 2019, 05:08 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Reminder is fine. I have proper sun viewing wielder's glass and proper protection when I use the binocs on the Sun. You must put the filter on the light coming into the binocs and not just covering your eyes.

I've been viewing sunspots for more than 2 decades. I must be doing it right.

Looking at that chart, it looks like this is the last of 'frequent' passes. The next one isn't until 2032. While past recent transits were more frequent.

BTW, I absolutely love your posts and your website.

Glad you're appreciative, Ginger. I assumed that you knew how to protect your eyes, but there's always someone needing a reminder. Looking forward to your report of the event.
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Old 9th November 2019, 05:38 PM   #28
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Forecast for Monday is "some sun". Here's hoping it's in the morning. Dismal here today.
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Old 10th November 2019, 10:18 AM   #29
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And now we're in a fog! Not only can I not see the sun, I can't see across the street.
Fingers crossed for tomorrow.
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Old 10th November 2019, 10:49 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Notrump View Post
Glad you're appreciative, Ginger. I assumed that you knew how to protect your eyes, but there's always someone needing a reminder. Looking forward to your report of the event.
The forecast calls for clouds or fog so my preliminary report is, I'm glad I tried* to see it the last go round.

My binocs weren't strong enough and I gave up trying to find it.

But Venus, now that was something. I literally chased a hole in the clouds and finally found a break with a great view after many miles of refusing to give up. I was glad I did.
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Old 11th November 2019, 12:00 AM   #31
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The Monday morning forecast for Chicagoland is clouds and almost continuous snow. We'll have to wait until 2049 for the next transit observable from the US. I was born in 1945, so I'll have to keep eating my Wheaties to be sharp for that one. At least on Sunday the Bears ended their four-game losing streak.

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Old 11th November 2019, 08:10 AM   #32
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Cloudless sky here on the New England coast, for the time being. I couldn't see the transit in the eclipse binoculars. Not enough magnification (which appears to only be about 3x). Part of the problem might be my age-adjusted vision.

But my old-school Astroscan (3" reflector) with an 8mm eyepiece (the first one I grabbled; in hindsight the choice of eyepiece didn't really matter much) projecting the solar disc onto white paper did the trick. The planet is clearly visible at first glance, as long as the projected image size is large enough not to glare (say, 5 inches diameter disc). A smaller but still clearly visible image should be possible even with a cheap "toy" 1" or 2" refractor. But the failure with the eclipse binoculars makes me think a homemade pinhole projector won't be enough.

Mandatory reminder to not look directly through the scope. Don't do it!
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Old 11th November 2019, 08:33 AM   #33
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Old 11th November 2019, 08:45 AM   #34
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How unimpressive. I've been looking at the sun with no eye protection since 7:30 am EST and nothing. Of course the heavy cloud cover and snow might have something to do with it.
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Old 11th November 2019, 10:42 AM   #35
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I can't even see a bright spot where the sun should be!
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Old 11th November 2019, 02:46 PM   #36
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From the thread initiator, thanks to all who participated. However, here in Chicagoland, all we could see in the cloudy sky was snowflakes and flocks of migrating geese. Nevertheless, we did get to observe the more widely anticipated 2004 and 2012 Venus transits, which I first learned to expect from a book in 1959. The next Venus transits will be in 2117 and 2125.

What always amazes me is that we can predict the positions of gigantic and speedy planets with great accuracy millennia in advance, yet next week's local weather forecast remains rather hazy.

The next Mercury transit will be in 2032, but for folks here in the US the next is 2049.

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Old 11th November 2019, 05:19 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
I can't even see a bright spot where the sun should be!

That might have been because the sun was so darkened by Mercury passing in front of it. It was like day turning into imperceptibly less bright day.
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Old 11th November 2019, 08:42 PM   #38
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It was cloudy this morning, but only in the eastern sky, so I knew there was no point in looking. I noticed it cleared up after a couple hours and it was still within the window, so I tried. First from inside the house, binoculars and telescope. I was able to get the disc of the Sun but no detail.

I finally caved, got dressed up, and went outside. It was 16 degrees F. And a little windy. I tried for another 15 minutes or so but just couldn't capture the dot (projecting onto white paper). By that time my hands were freezing so I called it.
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Old 11th November 2019, 09:49 PM   #39
Skeptic Ginger
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Now that transit of Venus, that was something.

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Old 12th November 2019, 08:40 AM   #40
Steve
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
"There's a little black spot on the sun today..."
There is a song for every occasion.
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