MSUToday
Published: May 5, 2016

Abrams hosts transit of Mercury viewing

Contact(s): Tom Oswald Media Communications office: (517) 432-0920 cell: (517) 281-7129 Tom.Oswald@cabs.msu.edu, Shannon Schmoll Abrams Planetarium office: (517) 355-4676 schmolls@msu.edu

Michigan State University’s Abrams Planetarium will host a viewing Monday that will give skywatchers the chance to see an astronomical event that doesn’t come around very often.

It’s called the transit of Mercury, a time when the planet closest to the sun passes in front of it and we are able to see it.

The last time this happened was in 2006. The next time won’t be until 2019.

“Mercury is an ‘inferior planet,’ meaning it is closer to the sun than the Earth,” said Shannon Schmoll, Abrams Planetarium director. “It will go in front of the sun rather frequently, but due to orbital tilts it's usually just above or below the sun from our perspective.”

The viewing will take place outside the planetarium. It begins, weather permitting, at 8:30 a.m. and lasts until 2:45 p.m.

Abrams will have two pieces of specialized equipment that will allow safe observing of the sun.

One is a Sunspotter, which uses mirrors to reflect an image of the sun onto a piece of paper.

The other is a Coronado solar telescope, which has a special filter that blocks out most of the sunlight, allowing for safe observing.

 

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