"Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another."
- Plato -
Yesterday, once again,
I proved that someone rather inept, late to the party, and all too careless, can still gain good value from making an effort to observe the beauty of the heavens. Despite all my shortcomings, I was able to observe the November 2019 transit of Mercury across the face of the sun.
The Planet Mercury (Color Enhanced) ~ Photo courtesy of skeeze
Out here near the left coast,
I knew that the transit would already be in progress when the sun rose in the morning. This meant that I would not be able to view the ingress of Mercury in front of the sun. So I was lazy, and didn't get up and about until about 9AM PST.
At that time, the sun had as yet not risen above the trees adjacent to our yard.
I collected my tripod and binoculars, only to discover that the little screw that enables me to attach the binoculars to the tripod was missing. Oops...
The next discovery was that the focuser on the binoculars had somehow been broken. Double oops...
Binoculars precariously attached to tripod...
Photo by author.
Undaunted, I gathered some rubber bands, some package tape, and some zip ties, and went out to the yard anyway. After several trial attempts to attach the binoculars to the tripod, I finally settled on a zip tie that seemed to work reasonably well.
I also grabbed a piece of cardboard with a nice, bright white surface to use as a projection screen, and headed out into the yard with my motley collection of equipment.
Sun projected on white cardboard.
Photo by author.
The binocular eyepieces responded to the temporary application of a rubber band to hold them in place, but it was still something of a trick to get the one eyepiece I used focused reasonably well. Once I was able to get a reasonable image projected on the cardboard, I began to snap pictures with my cellphone camera.
Despite my many faux pas, I managed to capture a series of images of the transit even though my cellphone camera was hand-held.
Two frame "blink scope" image of Mercury transit (lower right corner)
Photo by author.
I've taken two of the best images and converted them into an animated GIF. If you look closely at the lower right-hand corner of the GIF, you can see the silhouette of Mercury in two positions, flipping back and forth. Of course, the planet was only moving in one direction. The position closer to the edge of the sun is the final image... Nevertheless, the animation helps you, the viewer, to spot the planet without my having to draw ugly arrows on the images.
NOTE: If you compare the apparent motion of the planet in my images with diagrams on the internet, the angle of passage seems very off... This is due to the fact that my camera was hand-held, and that the rotation of the sun in the two images I've shared here is not accurate. Nevertheless, that ghostly shadow in the lower right of the GIF is the silhouette of Mercury, and I snapped the photos myself while it was happening... :D
The moral of my tale?
Don't wait until you have the best equipment. Seize the day! Go forth and observe the beauty of God's creation and enjoy what you see.
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