Astronomy group preparing for Mercury transit on Nov. 11

Ponca City Now - October 14, 2019 9:17 am

The Ponca City Astronomy group is preparing to provide the public with a seldom seen view of an event that happens only about four times in a century.

On Nov. 11, the planet Mercury will transit the sun. This will not only require a safe means of viewing the sun, but it will also require a telescope equipped with a proper solar filter.

A solar transit happens when a planet passes between the sun and the Earth. When the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, it is an eclipse.

Richar Jones, the astronomy group’s founder, said “Mercury is so small that you will not be able to see it without a telescope with a filter that blocks 99.9 percent of the sun’s light. This passing as seen from the Earth takes about six and a half hours.”

The last time that this happened was May 9, 2016, and the next time will be Nov. 13, 2023.

“This may happen at other times, but it is not visible from the United States,” Jones said. “Seeing the planet Mercury is a seldom event, as normally it is only visible for a short time in the morning before sunrise or just after sunset.”

Ponca City Astronomy is a group of amateur astronomers with a goal to inspire and educate Ponca City residents about happenings in astronomy (a study of phenomenon taking place outside the atmosphere  of the Earth).

“Our members will have a telescope with a proper solar filter set up in front of the Ponca City RecPlex starting at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 11 and will remain there until the end of the event. Anyone interested in seeing this event may come by and look through the telescope,” Jones said.

“The weather could cause the event to be delayed, curtailed or canceled, and of course we can not control that, nor could we postpone the event,” Jones said. “We hope that this will provide everyone with a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

The four planets nearest the sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, are the only planets that have a rocky surface, Jones said. The next four planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, are gas giants with no real surface. Jupiter is so large that all of the other planets in the solar system combined would fit inside of it, he said.

“To join Ponca City Astronomy, all that is required is that you have an interest in astronomy,” Jones said. “You need not have a telescope nor a vast knowledge of astronomy.  Our goal is to inspire an interest and help to educate our members as well as other people about astronomy.

“Sidewalk Astronomy is a monthly event of our group, held at the Ponca City RecPlex on a Friday nearest the First Quarter Moon as this is the best time for seeing features of the mountains and craters on the moon,” Jones said.

“Our group’s meeting is held on the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at the RecPlex in the Art Studio and is open to the public. There is a calendar of our events at our website at http://PCAstronomy.org .”

 

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