Transit of Mercury

By Richard Harvey

The transit of Mercury which occurred on the 11th November 2019, was the third Mercury transit this century, (other transits being 2006 and 2016). The next transit however, won’t occur till, 2032, so we felt it important that a group observation session should be arranged for the 2019 event.

With the Sun being only twenty degrees above the horizon at first contact, and heading lower, it was vital that we found an observation spot that offered a clear view of a low horizon towards the south. The Vineyard at Halfpenny Green seemed an ideal location, and we were lucky to be given permission to use the area outside the café.

Members started arriving around 11.30, to allow plenty of time for setting up scopes in readiness for first contact at 12.30. A fine array of telescopes adorned the grass area, with refractors, reflectors, and Schmitt-Cassegrains. Baader filters were firmly secured, and photographic equipment poised in readiness.

Telescopes set up for transit of Mercury
Telescopes set up with solar filters ready for the transit of Mercury
Members set up ready for the transit
Members with their scopes set up ready for the transit


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The Great American Eclipse

By Richard Harvey

Pic 0 - The Great American Eclipse
Pic 0 – The Great American Eclipse

The solar eclipse on the 21st August 2017 was the first eclipse on mainland America since 1979, and the first eclipse since 1918 to travel completely across the American continent. Given the increases in population and the land mass concerned, (it crossed fourteen states, and the path of totality covered 14% of US soil), it’s been estimated that it was the most viewed eclipse in human history. It’s little wonder then that it was called ‘The Great American Eclipse’. (picture 0)

My eclipse trip started at Heathrow on the 18th August. At 6am that morning there was a beautiful clear sky that presented a thin crescent waning moon by Venus, (my camera was packed away, so I didn’t get a photo). With only three days to go before the eclipse, as I watched the moon rise outside the airport I pondered on how the crescent would get even thinner over the next few days, till the moon would seemingly vanish from the sky and be completely ‘backlit’. It does this every lunar month of course, but this particular month, the moon’s position in the sky meant that it would move directly in front of the sun at 1.34pm on Monday, and weather permitting, grant us one of the finest astronomical treats.

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