The transit of Mercury has been observed by astronomers all around the world on November 11. A team of scientists from the University of Hawaii also joined the observers following Mercury passing in front of the sun, while the Institute for Astronomy held a gathering at Wai’alae Beach Park for people that wanted to watch the event.
Approximately 20 UH Mānoa students flew to Hawaiʻi Island to observe the event with their own eyes at the Subaru Telescope. There, a group of 200 people gathered to use solar telescopes.
Mercury and Venus are the only two planets that can be viewed from Earth in their transit.
Mercury’s journey around the sun takes 88 days. The planet passes between our planet and the sun frequently, but the transit usually happens out of our view. This time, it was visible, and many people were excited to view it, as it is a rare celestial event. The “Mercury Transit” began at around 2:30 am and, for about 5 hours, Mercury passed between the sun and Earth.
In the photos, the tiny dot towards the bottom of the sun represents Mercury.
According to NASA, the event only happens 13 times in a hundred years. The next visible transit of Mercury seen from Earth will happen in November 2032, while the next one visible from Hawaii will not happen until 2049.
Olivier Guyon, an astronomer at the Subaru Telescope, said: “It doesn’t move exactly in the same plane. That’s why transits don’t happen often. Most of the time when its roughly aligned with us, it’s above or below the sun. We are very fortunate today that it’s perfect, so Mercury is passing straight in front of the sun.”
The next Venus transit visible from Earth is even farther away, as it will happen in 2117.