12:30pm - 3:30pm
Monday 11 November 2019

Transit of Mercury

THE SUN HAS SET BEHIND TREES SO WE ARE NOT ABLE TO OBSERVE ANYMORE. We will upload some photos soon.

Only a handful of times per century do we get to witness Mercury transiting our Sun. On Monday 11th November we welcomed the public to our telescope dome on campus to see this exciting event for themselves.

We will have several telescopes with a solar filter set up to view the event. Mercury will start moving across the Sun at 12.30 and continue until sunset.

Our astronomers will be on hand throughout the day to chat to the public about the planet Mercury, the transit and some of the fascinating research they are conducting, which ranges from which ranges from the unknown origins of giant “globular” star clusters, through to nature of the mysterious "Dark Matter.”

Demonstrating the incredible scale of our solar system

The images for Mercury transiting the Sun really capture the incredible scale of our solar system. Mercury is about a third the size of the planet Earth, but only 1/158 the size of the Sun, so it appears as just a tiny dot against the disk of our Sun. Transits are rare as they require Mercury (or very occasionally Venus), the Earth and Sun to all be aligned in their orbits.

We might also be able to see some sunspots. These are dark regions, often larger than planets as can be seen here. These spots appear dark compare to the sun’s surface as they are colder, around 3,700° C, a much lower temperature than the Suns photosphere (visible surface) which is about 5,500° C. These spots are caused by the magnetic field of the sun surging up; they can often cause solar flares or coronal mass ejections.

The tiny black dot of mercury passing over the surface of the Sun also reminds us what a remarkable coincidence it is that the Moon almost perfectly eclipses the Sun. This is most likely just a coincidence, but until we know any better we can dare to dream. Perhaps the Earth’s unusually large Moon is an important factor in the development of life. In that case, our near-perfect Eclipse may be no coincidence after all.

 

Free

Telescope site A2 on campus map
University of Surrey
Guildford
Surrey
GU2 7XH
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