Mercury was in transit across the sun yesterday – a rare and awe-inspiring astronomical event that happens only a few times each century.
It crossed the skies above Ireland for a period of eight-ish hours, from 12.12pm GMT to 7.42pm GMT, and Astronomy Ireland was quite on top of the excitement.
Here’s what they had to say about it:
“A transit of Mercury across the Sun takes place when the planet Mercury comes between the Sun and the Earth, and Mercury is seen as a small black dot moving across the face of the Sun. Transits of Mercury with respect to Earth are much more frequent than transits of Venus, with about 13 or 14 per century, in part because Mercury is closer to the Sun and orbits it more rapidly. Transits of Mercury occur in May or November. The last three transits occurred in 1999, 2003 and 2006; the next will occur on May 9, 2016.
“Transits of Mercury can happen in May or November with May transits being about half as frequent as November transits. They currently occur within a few days either side of May 8 and November 10. The interval between one November transit and the next November transit may be 7, 13, or 33 years; the interval between one May transit and the next May transit may be 13 or 33 years.”
Because looking directly at the sun is highly dangerous and can lead to blindness, Astronomy Ireland set up a supervised viewing station with telescopes at their headquarters in Blanchardstown, Dublin. The Astronomical Society of Ireland did the same in St. Stephen’s Green, and there were also stations at Trinity College Dublin.
Because weather conditions became cloudy as the day progressed (the Earth day, that is; a day on Mercury is the equivalent of 176 Earth days!), many of the live broadcasts of the transit ended two hours early, but some phenomenal footage was still captured.
@ronan_monaghan pants on fire....that's a freckle or my money back— Rambling Róisín (@ramblingroisin) May 9, 2016