St Neots astronomers capture image of rare transit of Mercury across the sun
- Credit: Archant
Members of the St Neots Astronomy Association (SNAA) captured this spectacular image showing the transit of Mercury across the sun.
They met at the Paxton Pits Nature Reserve on November 11 to record the event, which will not happen until 2032.
Using specialist solar telescopes, the group were able to observe Mercury's first contact with the sun at 12.35am. It appeared as a small black dot on the sun's surface.
"It was partly cloudy with intermittent good viewing," said Peter Howarth from the SNAA.
"The image makes you realise just how large our sun is. Mercury was tracked for most of the afternoon to a halfway point across the sun when it dipped below the horizon. The next event occurs in November 2032."
INFO: For more information about the club, go to: www.SNAA.co.uk.
According to the www.space.com website: "These rare events are only possible through tricky alignments in planetary orbits. Mercury and Venus (like all the planets in our solar system) circle the sun in a plane, somewhat like a pancake. But it's not a perfectly flat pancake, and each planet has a slight tilt in its orbit.
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Only Venus and Mercury can pass across the sun in our sky, since they are on the inner side of the solar system, compared with Earth. Transits of Mercury tend to fall around the same time of year — either November or May. Venus' are more scattered."