Sky Events

Get Ready NOW for November’s Mercury Transit!

Now is the time to prepare for the premier astronomical event of 2019!

From Tele Vue’s patio, Jon Betancourt and David Nagler view the May 2016 Mercury Transit in Hydrogen Alpha light. They’re using a big-screen Samsung Galaxy Note 4 supported by a FoneMate™ smartphone adapter attached to our 18.2mm DeLite eyepiece and Tele Vue-76 APO scope. Staff photo.

While there are at least 20 solar eclipses in a decade, there will be only 13 transits of Mercury each century!  The next one, on November 11th is less than 8 weeks away. You should  be checking your gear and doing dry runs on the Sun now (hopefully with sunspots) to prepare for this rare event: the one after this will be a long way off in the year 2032. 

The Transit of Mercury in May 2016: the planet here is 12-arcseconds across — while 20% larger than the upcoming November 2019 event — it was still a very small target. Note the size of the planet versus the sunspots in the Active Regions. White light filter on Tele Vue-76 APO scope with 18.2 DeLite eyepiece (26.4x) connected to FoneMate™ smartphone adapter holding Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Image by Jon Betancourt.

For the upcoming event, Mercury is near perihelion at only 10 arc-seconds in diameter. At that size,  you’ll need planetary magnification on a solar filtered telescope to appreciate the spectacle — eclipse glasses over your eyes will not do! 

Visit the the excellent 2019 Transit of Mercury page by Fred Espenak for detailed circumstances.

Timing for this event is from 12:35 to 18:04 UT on November 11, 2019 with closest approach between the centers of Mercury and the Sun (a close 76″ separation) at 15:20 UT. The complete transit will be visible in eastern North America, Central America, South America, most of the Atlantic, parts of the Pacific, and a slice of western Africa.

Don’t fret if you live outside the complete zones: being a 7½-hour event, many areas of the planet will see part of the event. For example, most of Europe and Africa that don’t see the complete event will see the start of the transit but miss the end as the Sun sets. Likewise, the part of North America that misses the start will see the transit in progress at sunrise and witness the end. Observing from these areas does have a benefit: transit images made as the Sun sets or rises on the horizon can be quite striking!

The only areas seeing no transit at all are Australia, Southeast Asia, Japan, the Koreas, China, Mongolia, most of India, and parts of Russia some distance west of Moscow and the Caspian Sea.

Always use a solar filter for viewing or imaging the Sun!
Thoughts on Mercury Transit Gear
SSF-1006 Sol-Searcher. Note solar filter on scope for safe viewing / imaging.

Whether you’re setting up your scope in a hurry, or manually recentering on the Sun, Tele Vue’s Sol-Searcher makes it easy to find Sol. The front aperture acts as a “pinhole” which projects an image of the Sun on to the translucent “screen.” This screen can be viewed from either side. Simply move your scope until the Sun’s image is centered on the screen. The Sol-Searcher attaches to the mount ring slot of every Tele Vue telescope (or to the rear cell slot in the Tele Vue Ranger). For use with telescopes other than Tele Vue, mount the Sol-Searcher using #10-32 screws, or if necessary, attach with Velcro (not supplied).
SFA-0001 FoneMate with optional phone and eyepiece.

An easy entry into transit imaging with your telescope is by using your smartphone with our FoneMate™ smartphone adapter securely clamped to a compatible Tele Vue eyepiece. Smartphones as big as the Galaxy Note 4 (shown) can be fitted to the FoneMate™. This allows stills, video, timelapse images of the event to be recorded.

Front: 1¼” PMT-2513 (2.5x) & PMT-5126 (5x). Rear: 2″ PMT-2200 (2x) & PMT-4201 (4x).

If your  tests show your scope needs more “reach” consider our  4-element Powermate™ photo / visual amplifiers. They increase the focal length of your scope with reduced aberrations, greater magnification potential, and compact size size compared to typical Barlow lenses. Also, Powermates™ can be stacked with no adverse impact. Tele Vue Powermates™ are available in 2″ barrels (2x & 4x) with 1¼” adapters and 1¼” barrels (2.5x & 5x). Can be used with diagonal or without using a short extension. 

Imaging with Powermates™ is easy: the visual tops all unscrew to accept a specific Tele Vue Powermate™ T-Ring Adapter for use with standard camera T-rings. Otherwise a cameras just needs a slip-in 1¼” or 2” nosepiece to slide into the visual top. 

Powermate T-Ring Adapters (left-to-right): PTR-2200 for 2x, PTR-4201 for 4x, and PTR-1250 for 2.5x & 5x Powermates.
2016 Mercury Transit iPhone image with 130mm refractor (light filtered) using Tele Vue 7mm DeLite and FoneMate™ Smartphone Adapter. This shot also has a fine view of the big sunspot region 2542 and the smaller region 2543 to its lower right. Image by Dennis di Cicco (Senior Contributing Editor at Sky & Telescope and 2015 NERAL Walter Scott Houston award winner).

Did you observe, sketch or image with Tele Vue gear? We’ll like your social media post on that if you tag it #televue and the gear used. Example:
#televue #tv85 #fonemate #mercurytransit

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