Transit of Planet Mercury on 9 May 2016 in front of the Sun

May 04, 2016
Göttingen Campus offers observations and seminar talks about the rare event on 9 May 2016

Next Monday, 9 May 2016, Mercury, the innermost and smallest planet of our solar system transits in front of the Sun. In the event of a clear sky, the literally rare transit of planet Mercury can be observed in full length throughout Germany. On the North Campus, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) and the Institute for Astrophysics of the University of Göttingen will offer interested visitors the opportunity to safely observe the Sun and Mercury with appropriate telescopes and to attend seminar talks about the topic.

“The Sun should be observed with the appropriate protective filters. While solar eclipse spectacles will be sufficient for a safe solar observation, Mercury cannot be seen with them because of its diameter that equals only 1/158 of the Sun”, states Dr Klaus Reinsch at the Institute for Astrophysics of the University of Göttingen. The transit of Mercury will occur between 1:12pm and 8:40pm. During that period of time, Mercury will slowly pass in front of the Sun from East to West and can be seen as a small black disc.

Given a clear sky, the observation platform of the Institute for Astrophysics at the top of the Physics Building (Friedrich-Hund-Platz 1) will be opened from 1pm on and can be reached via the main entrance. Guided tours through the Institute combined with observation possibilities and subsequent seminar talks will  start at 1pm, 3pm, 5pm and 7pm at the Northeastern entrance (Tammannstraße). Further, the transit can be observed with transportable (mobile/portable) telescopes between 1pm and 7pm in front of the main entrance of the MPS. In addition, seminar talks about Mercury and the Sun will be held in the Auditorium of the MPS.

Mercury is the smallest and innermost planet of our solar system. Its orbital period equals 88 days. Since the Earth orbits the Sun once a year, Mercury passes by the Earth every 116 days. At this time, Mercury is located between the Earth and the Sun. However, a transit rarely occurs since Mercury normally passes by north or south of the Sun. The forthcoming transit of planet Mercury will be the first one that can be observed from Central Europe since 7 May 2003. The next one willnot occur until 11 November 2019.

Given the excellent weather conditions today the event at MPS will take place as planned!

In case of restricted visibility due to bad weather conditions, both Institutes reserve the right to cancel the event at short notice. Current information is available on the websites of the MPS and the Institute for Astrophysics

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