NSN Clubs Observing the 2019 Mercury Transit!
The Astronomers of Verrado had incredible seeing for their transit observing event in Arizona! Kenyon Spencer reports, "The event was phenomenal. Victory at Verrado (Developer) provided us with a great venue. More beautiful than most we've been afforded over looking the east at the highest location in Verrado. The grounds were outstanding, like a green oasis on a mountain top against the White Tank Mountains. Our telescopes were able to have an uninterrupted view of the transit. We picked up 9 new members."
The Mercury transit of 2019 was an awesome event,for astronomy clubs and lucky visitors to their observing events! Night Sky Network clubs around the country helped the public safely observe the tiny disc of Mercury as it traveled across the Sun. A few of their their stories and photos from their events across the USA are below:

image of Mercury crossing the Sun
The StarLight Observatory struggled with weather, but managed to get a bit of observing in. Norm Black reports, "The observing the transit had to be delayed by an hour since there were clouds overhead and it was snowing. The skies cleared for a short period of time in the morning. Only a single class of students were able to view the transit before the cloud cover returned. Only the last hour of the transit could be viewed again."

astronomers looking through telescopes on the beach
The Back Bay Amateur Astronomers set up at the beach for a great day of transit viewing, with a late run of clouds cutting things short. The photo above shows member Chuck Dibbs helping visitors, taken by George Reynolds. George also reports, "It was an almost-perfect day for the Transit of Mercury. Cool 40s in the morning, warming up to the low 60s in the afternoon, and sunny most of the morning. We saw the beginning of the transit shortly after 0730, and watched the progression of Mercury's movement across the sun as the hours went by. About 1100 some wispy clouds started drifting in, and by 1200 noon the sun was almost obliterated by the hazy clouds. No shadows could be seen until shortly before 1300, but by then all scopes had been taken down except for Jeff Goldstein's SCT. Even then the view of the sun was so hazy that we could not make out the egress of Mercury from the face of the sun. Since it was the Veterans' Day holiday, there was more visitor traffic on the boardwalk than usual for this time of year, and many people got to see Mercury (or at least its silhouette) for the first time. We received many many thank-yous from appreciative visitors and passersby. BBAA participants were Jeff Goldstein, Chuck Dibbs, Chuck Jagow, Dale Carey, Mike Webster, Mel Spruill, Neill Alford, and George Reynolds. Newsletter editor Leanne Lagoe took pictures and then went to the Chesapeake planetarium to report on the group there. Mike Webster also went there to join them. All in all, it was a pleasant day, and successful, even though we were unable to see the end of Mercury's transit."

people gathered at a park to look through telescopes in the daytime
This photo by Justin Cirillo shows some of the over 350 visitors to the Central Florida Astronomical Society event, held in conjunction with the Emil Buehle Planetarium! Leonard Ward adds that many visitors also received copies of the "I Observed the 2019 Mercury Transit" certificate.

image of Mercury crossing an orange Sun
Leonard Ward was unable to attend the main CFAS transit event himself due to circumstances, but was able to set up some sidewalk astronomy outside his home where he snapped this great photo of the transit through his telescope. Passers by had the lucky chance to view the event themselves!

man shows child on step stool mercury transit through telescope
Rob Williams of the Westminster Astronomical Society set up in Hanover Square and handed out Mercury Transit certificates to kids who stopped by to observe the big event! He adds, "The first two people to arrive were from Washington DC and were in the area for the long weekend. They searched NSN and found the WASI event in Hanover. I set up some signs in the square and got several people who parked and came to observe."

telescope set up on intriguing mount
Another member of the Westminster Astronomical Society, Thomas P Wiley, set up near the local airport at the BWI Observation park with the projection setup above, and reports, "Used an easel and a 6" f/8 Newtonian Reflector with a 28mm eyepiece to project an image of the Sun at ~45 times magnification and a projected image size of the Sun approximately 18" in diameter. At this scale, Mercury was about half the size of a pencil eraser, but when the sky was fairly clear, Mercury was prominently visible. We had cirrus clouds all day, with some very thick at the beginning of the event, so I could not observe the first or second contact, but began seeing it about 3 minutes into the Transit as the sky cleared sufficiently for the image to be sharp and for Mercury to be resolvable as the contrast increased. The first person to come up to me was actually a Maryland Transportation Authority Policeman, and he was really tickled that he got to see the transit--he didn't think he'd get the chance to observe the event. About an hour later his partner, Officer Pierre got to see Mercury about 1/3 of the way across the Sun. I kept a tally and in all 40 different people got to see the Transit at various stages"

Sun photos and sunpotter instrument set up in park to observe Mercury transit
Ken Coates of the Mount Diablo Astronomical Society shows off his setup and reports that he had, "Good discussions about Captain Cook's voyage to Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus to help calculate the distance from the Earth to the Sun."

man holds up space related models and telescope for solar observing
Ray Bradley of the Roanoke Astronomical Society took this photo of Dan Chrisman setting up, and adds, "For safety purposes, we made sure that each telescope was supervised by an outreach member. Fortunately, we had enough volunteers and telescopes to manage the 100+ students and faculty who filtered through our site at the back of the school over the 5 1/2 hours of the transit. Unfortunately, the first couple hours of the transit were obscured by haze and clouds. The first science class that came through our setup didn't see much more than the silhouette of the sun as they peered, shivering from the cold morning air, into the variety of solar filtered telescopes we set up outside the school building. However, they did get an excellent explanation from Dan Chrisman, former RVAS president, about the transit along with a model demonstration using his homemade orbital rings. By the time the second class arrived, the air warmed to a comfortable 50°F and the skies cleared sufficiently to catch glimpses of a small black ball appearing 1/158th the size of the sun as it crossed between it and Earth. Students were very surprised at Mercury's small size against the backdrop of the sun. Around 10:30am, the skies completely cleared, and students had no trouble spotting Mercury as it slowly sailed across the face of the sun until 4th contact at 1:03:56pm marked the end of the transit. Thanks to one engaging teacher and her enthusiastic students, we really couldn't have asked for a better outreach opportunity to observe the Mercury Transit. Sadly, it's going to be a long 13 years before the next one!

people gathered on a rooftop next to a telescope to watch the Mercury transit
Lowcountry Stargazers set up for their transit event, seen in the photo above featuring both members and visitors! T. Berta reports, "LCS members set up telescopes at Ft. Moultrie on Sullivans Island around sunrise for the Transit of Mercury. A total of 12 members came out to share this event with the public. We set up both near the parking lot and on the roof of the Visitor Center, to show the transit to over 250 visitors at the Park. The planet was mostly visible during the entire transit, although clouds, especially high wispy ones, sometimes made it difficult to see."

people looking through telescope
D. Papadopolous took this photo of another Lowcounty Astronomer, Jay Messeroff, who reports, "I stopped by Ft. Moultrie, and seeing that there was sufficient attendance of club members, I decided to go to Patriots Point instead. I had a successful outreach at the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point. Probably 100 people viewed the Transit through my telescope."

astronomers gathered in the fall with warm clothes to watch Mercury transit
 Skip Bird reports that at yet another location (seen in the above photo by Jackie Donaldson), even more members of the Wesminster Astronomical Society, "Set up at the Overlook to get the entire transit. Put up signs and waved at people. Also the first day of bow hunting, so seeing armed people trying to look through telescopes was different. Had lots of families and people on their way to work stop by, including Baltimore's finest just checking on what the crowd was for!"

Photo of Mercury Transit
Jim Webster took this gorgeous photo at the Astronomical Society of the Toms RIver Area's Mercury transit viewing event, where John Endreson reports, "Numbers were small as it was a school day, but we did have some success with public outreach for those able to come. Eight members with 11 assorted scopes (set up). We were able to successfully take photos of this event and created a video of the transit. Bonus observation was some sun dogs after the transit."

astronomer setting up telescope outside of van with a big sign reading MERCURY OBSERVATION
FInally, even more Westminster Astronomical Society members held another event transit Laurie Ansorge reports, "We had folks from age 3 through retirees attend, many who found us via Night Sky Network. Many traveled 45 minutes to find us. A local paper photographer snapped quite a few pictures as well as pics of fact sheets we had on hand. We were able to capture cell phone pics of the transit through our telescope." One of which, taken by Laurie herself, can be seen below. 

cell phone photo of Mercury transit across a white Sun

It looks like folks had a blast showing Mercury to curious visitors and club members alike! It will be a while before the next transit event- November 13, 2032 - but regardless, we wish you all clear skies, and keep sharing the stars!

Last Updated: December 20, 2019
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