Hey, HAS! The Transit of Mercury is May 9, 2016

Hey, HAS! The Transit of Mercury is May 9, 2016

Postby rene-gedaly » Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:54 pm

If you're planning to view the transit of Mercury, how about going the extra effort to get an award? The Astronomical League has paired up with NASA again to put together The Planetary Transit Special Award for Mercury. Not too long ago they did one for Venus. Here's the link: https://astroleague.org/PlanetaryTransit_Venus2012

The requirements look god-awful but I'm not sure they really are. One option requires two observers, separated by some distance, to image the transit.

I think some will be hanging back from TSP to see the transit, some of us may be at the Dark Site, and others of us may be at an outreach event in Houston. If we could buddy up with an imager from at least two of these locations, we're in business.

Now, I'm not an imager. However, for the transit I ordered an adapter from Amazon to connect my cell phone to my 90mm refractor (protected by a solar filter of course). The adapter is an Orion 05306 SteadyPix Pro Universal Camera/Smartphone Mount (Black). Find the video to see how easily it mates up. So, I'm hoping I'll just snap some shots throughout the transit.

Let me know!
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Re: Hey, HAS! The Transit of Mercury is May 9, 2016

Postby andrew-alvey » Wed Apr 20, 2016 9:37 pm

I just purchased a solar filter for my telescope last week and tried it out for the first time today. I am planning on observing the Mercury transit (the whole reason for the filter purchase) as well as imaging it with my Nikon DSLR camera. I need to research what setting are best for solar imaging since I know pretty little about that. Today I was able to image a couple sun spots which was pretty exciting!
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Re: Hey, HAS! The Transit of Mercury is May 9, 2016

Postby rene-gedaly » Thu Apr 21, 2016 3:37 pm

Fabulous! Have fun!

Now, back to the AL award and using observing buddies. It's easy to see there won't be enough angular separation between observing buddies from Houston to Columbus, or Houston to Kerrville, or even Houston to Fort Davis. (Thanks, Aaron) Why's that?

Skip the basic trig functions on the awards page for a moment and wade through the verbiage to find out what we're actually trying to do. Ah, here's part of it: Measure the parallax of Mercury as seen between two positions on Earth. Hence the buddy system, you and someone else a suitable distance away from you will each image the transit from your respective locations.

When we first learn about parallax, we're usually told to extend our thumb in front of us at arm's length and watch it jump as we close one eye and then the other. That's parallax at a distance from each eyeball to your thumb. When we're talking about two points on the Earth to Mercury (or Venus), it's easy to see that another point on Earth that's a mere 550 miles down the road on I-10 from you isn't going to cut it.

That's not the whole project, but it's not as ambitious as it first looks. There are some observations to gather, a little image processing, and then a few simple calculations to get your final answer, why you're working this project, and that is to calculate for yourself the value of an Astronomical Unit (AU).

But I did want to say that if you're interested in doing this project, you'll most likely want to use either option 2 or 3 shown below:

Requirement #2: Collect the observations

There are three options available to you. Choose the one that is the most appropriate.

1. You can partner with another member of the Astronomical League who is located at a distance from your observing location.
2. You can observe from your location and get a second observation of the transit from a remote observatory location from the Internet.
3. Or, if you are not able to see the transit on May 9th, you can use observations from two remote observatory locations from the Internet. Observations must be done through imaging.


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