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AAAA News and Activities

Observing the Transit of Mercury

November 15, 1999

To Read Transit Data Reports, Click HERE
To Read AAAA Observing Reports, Click HERE.

AAAA Members: If you have an observing report you want us to post, send us an e-mail and let us know. 

The Nov. 15 transit of Mercury was great from Lakewood, CA, with good transparency and moderate seeing. Videoed the whole hour long transit through a 1 Angstrom band pass filter and showed the whole school. The tape shows 1st contact at 21:12:00 UT and 4th contact at 22:09:57 UT. Dave Phelps was a big help controlling the crowds and operating the equipment. Marty Poissant (Mr. Hollywood) made the attached outtakes from the tape and I did the Adobe PhotoShop enhancements of the 3 outtakes. Enjoy this small JPEG.  

Msgr. Ron Royer

Using a Baader Astrosolar Filter in Missouri

Just a quick note about the Mercury transit; I caught the event with a b&w video camera and visually. Since the sixteen isn't equiped for Solar observation I used the eight inch. Filters tried were W25 for the camera and both a full aperture TO type 2, as well as an off axis Baader Astrosolar filter. The home-made off axis filter provided superior performance. Thinking that the aperture reduction may have been responsible for most of the improvement in image quality, I tried adding a cardboard off axis stop to the TO filter.... Should you decide to try Baader Astrosolar film, you won't be dissapointed! Great stuff!

During the event I was particularly interested in observing the "black drop effect". The seeing was hideous, chromatic distortion along the Solar limb was quite obvious visually. 

It has been speculated that since the black drop effect was much more widely reported in the past, when common observing apertures were smaller, the effect itself might be caused by the resolution limit attributed to smaller objectives, and possibly persistence of vision. 

The clear aperture of the off axis mask used on the eight inch was 65mm. NO black drop effect was seen, either visually or on any of the video frames! It appears that the black drop effect, if real, must have been caused by the smoked glass filters and/or Herschel wedges used for past Solar observations.

Finally, the visual penumbral detail of Solar region 8765(?) was awesome. Granulation and limb darkening through the Astrosolar filter were much more apparent than I'd ever seen with the glass solar filter.

Doug Kniffen
Warrenton, MO

From a Backyard in California

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 was over. 

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!

Isaac Kikawada

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 in Dallas

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 of Mercury."   

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 my pictures. 

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! Oh, Well!

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 itself.

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.

Ed Flaspoehler, 
Vice President AAAA

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