Did you see the Mercury Transit?
A student at a local junior college in California saw the Transit with members of the Mount Diablo Astronomical Society. (Credit: L. Haitsma)

These days, there is so much more to star parties than looking through telescopes. Activities and demonstrations keep the whole family entertained in between eyepiece time.

The Transit of Mercury on November 8th was no exception. As the planet Mercury passed between the Earth and the Sun, it was silhouetted as a little black dot against the Sun.

About 60 Mercury Transit events have been logged by Night Sky Network clubs. Here is just a sampling.

The Santa Barbara Astro Unit in California kept almost 100 elementary school children fascinated with activities that allowed them to model the Sun, Earth, and Mercury. Several other members took time off to show the transit to their fellow employees at work.

The StarGarden Foundation in Missouri showed the transit to 150 schoolchildren. They reported, "We heard lots of "WOW! I've seen Mercury!" and quiet gasps of awe. There were those who also were so astonished they could not believe they were seeing it and asked "Is that really Mercury?" One science teacher summed up the day when she said, "These kids are so lucky to get to see this! I am 54 years old and until just now I had never seen the Sun except in pictures! I certainly never saw anything like this! The kids will remember this forever."

425 students in Humble, Texas had the opportunity to watch the transit through five different telescopes of the North Houston Astronomy Club.

The Amateur Astronomers Group of Alamogordo, New Mexico explained to their transit visitors how NASA's Kepler mission will be using transit to search for Earth-size planets around other stars. After the Transit, they kept their telescopes up to allow their visitors to view the night sky.

The Birmingham Astronomical Society in Alabama set up a scale model of the Sun, Earth, and Mercury to let visitors see how the three bodies lined up.

Even in normally cloudy Washington, the weather cooperated with the Tacoma Astronomical Society as they showed the Transit to 100 people at a local college.

To find out about more exciting astronomy events, contact a Night Sky Network club close to you. You can find them here.