On May 9th, Mercury, our Solar System’s smallest planet, made its 7.5-hour trek across the sun in an event called a solar transit. Astronomers and space enthusiasts alike broke out their telescopes to observe Mercury’s rare journey.
Victor Farris of the Everglades Astronomical Society set up shop right outside of the Red Rooster restaurant on Marco Island, inviting anyone who passed by to take a look. “Mercury is transiting across the sun,” said Farris. “It’s a pretty rare event. It happens about once every ten years or so. Give or take.”
Through the telescope, Mercury, which is about 48 million miles away from Earth, looked like atiny black dot moving across a big yellow blob. Victor, who had been watching the transit since 8 in the morning, explained what it all meant to interested passer byers.
“The path of Mercury is tilted in relation to the Earth’s orbit,” said Farris. “The period that they cross is in May and November. That’s when this is most likely to happen. Next May 9th Mercury may be someplace else. Right now it just happens to be crossing in front of the sun relative to where we are.”
The Everglades Astronomical Society meets on the second Tuesday of every month at the Norris Center in Naples. For more information visit naples.net/~nfn19284/eas/.