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Villanova Astronomers, Community Mark Transit of Mercury

Villanova Astronomers, Community Mark Transit of Mercury

Villanovans joined astronomy enthusiasts across the globe on Monday, May 9 for the opportunity to see Mercury transit the Sun.  It is an astronomical event that occurs only 13 or 14 times every century. 

transit of Mercury across the Sun takes place when the planet Mercury comes between the Sun and the Earth, and Mercury is seen as a small black dot moving across the face of the Sun.

During the celestial event, Villanova’s Department of Astrophysics and Planetary Science offered Villanova faculty, staff and students the chance to observe this rare phenomenon.  More than 60 members of the Villanova community enthusiastically made the trek to the fourth-floor Villanova observatory in Mendel Science Center.Since the transit of Mercury is nearly impossible—and dangerous—to view with the naked eye, telescopes with solar filters were made available and Astrophysics faculty were on hand to guide neophyte astronomers as they gazed into the sky. 

Mercury is about one third the size of Earth.  What could be seen through the telescope’s lens was Mercury as a tiny black circle, smaller but darker than many sunspots, slowly traversing the Sun's giant yellow disc.