From a Backyard in
I observed the Mercury Transit from our back yard for the first time in my
life today (11-15-99). Our neighbor Frank and I saw the whole event in a
beautiful cloud-free sky!
I sketched the sun spots in my observation
circle beforehand so that I could locate Mercury when and
where it popped in. Frank, who was a navigator of USS Missouri
during the Korean War, located the black dot of Mercury in
relation to the other black dots I had drawn. Mercury's
dot/disc was decidedly blacker than the others. We watched as
it separated from the polar edge (it was perpendicularly away
from the double-row of suns pots) of the Sun, which took quite
a "longer" time than we expected, unlike that of the
occultation of Aldebaran by the Moon. It nicely traversed near
the edge but clearly detached from the edge -- we followed for
almost an hour till it exited making a tiny little black dent
in the Sun just as when it entered. Again it took a
"long" time and finally about 14:10 the entire show
It was very exciting to observe the transit, a
very rare event, and I was very happy to see this event with
Frank, who pointed out Mercury to me in our neighbor's yard
three years ago for the first time in my life. Now I owe him
my Double Mercury Firsts!
AAAA President John Wagoner, seated, and
Vice President Ed Flaspoehler, standing, observed the November
15th Transit of Mercury from the parking lot of The
Observatory, Inc., a telescope store in Dallas. Ed used a
4-inch Mead 2045 SCT with a Thousand Oaks solar filter. John
had a 4-inch INTES refractor from Russia, equipped with a
2-inch TeleVue eyepiece.
At a Telescope Store
AAAA president John Wagoner and I observed the
Transit of Mercury at The Observatory, Inc., a new telescope
store in Dallas. My friend John Briggs also joined us
for an afternoon in the sun, and to stand in the "shadow
The event itself was fascinating. I did not
time it accurately, but everything seemed right on schedule
according to the published predictions, and I took pictures at
each of the contact points and at mid-transit. Visually
through the telescope, there was a clear, tiny black dot that
slowly moved across the edge of the sun over the period of an
hour. The planet
showed up as a tiny blurred speck right on the edge of each of
As you can see from the above image, my photos really did not turn
out, since I did not use eyepiece projection photography, as Wagoner suggested. Darn! He is always right! You don't get a second chance on these things. Maybe next time, about 40 years from now!
We are friends with Rick McKay, the owner of
The Observatory, Inc., and we were hoping to help out the
store as well as get out a bit of information about the AAAA,
so we set up in the parking lot in front of the store. But
only a few people came by to look. I guess it was Monday. And
this event did not get much play in the local press. Or the
national press, for that matter. The few people that did stop
by were interesting.
First off was a man who saw our setup from the
highway, and drove into the parking lot about ten minutes
before the transit started. He said he is about to retire, and
is interested in astronomy, but did not stay for the event
Then there was a young lady, a sort of blonde, who was just
curious about what we were doing. Later on, we had Susanne Calvin, a chief announcer at WRR-FM,
the local classical music station in Dallas, and one of their advertising managers.
And the shop owner, endlessly. And we had a brown curly haired young man
drop by to take a quick look near the end.
Everyone had a good time, and the transit
itself was interesting. Still, we did not do much to create
interest in the science of astronomy in the public at large.
Or sell telescopes for Rick McKay.
Vice President AAAA