Hideously belated observing report: Mercury transit on November 11, 2019

August 22, 2020

Not a ton to say about this other than that we saw it. London was home from school for Veteran’s Day. It was sunny, warm, and bright, and neither of us fancied spending a ton of time standing in the sun, so we limited ourselves to a few quick peeks rather than continuous observation.

About the only notable thing about the transit was our observing rig, which is probably the redneckest job I ever threw together. Most of my good gear was packed away at the back of the garage and I didn’t fancy digging it out, so I taped a pair of cardboard eclipse glasses over the front of the SkyScanner 100 to create a subaperture mask, taped some spare cardboard from a torn-up Amazon box over that to block all the filter-less areas, and set the whole rig on our green-waste bin. It was decidedly low-tech, but not as sketchy as it sounds–I taped everything very securely to the tube so none of it could fall off, because the risk of direct, unfiltered sunlight through a scope is nothing to joke about. Then London and I took turns shading each other’s faces so we wouldn’t be squinting against the sun while we observed.

I didn’t take any pictures, we just watched the crisp little BB of Mercury drift across the face of the sun. The “lenses” of the solar glasses are about an inch in diameter, so basically we turned the 100mm f/4 system into a 25mm f/16 system, and a light cone that long is pretty forgiving. Which reminds me, I’ve just been reading about people experiencing a pseudo-3D “marble” effect when viewing the moon through telescopes of 40mm aperture or less. I should make a 40mm aperture mask for my C80ED and see if I get that effect.

Anyway, thus ended the transits of the twenty-teens. I was fortunate to catch them all: the Venus transit on June 5, 2012 (observing report), one Mercury transit on May 9, 2016 (observing report), and this second Mercury transit on November 11, 2019. The next Mercury transits won’t be until the 2030s: November 13, 2032 (I’ll be 57), and November 7, 2039 (64). Then 2049 and 2052, 2062 and 2065, and 2078. I’ll be 103 if I make it to that last one. The next Venus transit won’t be until 2117, 142 years after my birth, so barring some kind of technological miracle I don’t reckon I’ll be seeing another. It was a privilege to see the one that I did.

Now transit season is over for a bit over a decade, so we’ll have to find other things to keep busy with. Fortunately the sky has much to offer. Stay tuned.


  1. We’ve had two Mercury transits in recent years and I have seen both.the 2019 one I used my small 25mm Pocket Borg refractor with Thousand Oaks solar film.the one a few years before a spotting scope I no longer have and a 25mm Opticron Trailfinder monocular and Baadar solar film.the spotting scope was low quality with a narrow field of view and I gave up but the 25mm monocular gave excellent views.the 2019 wasn’t as good for although the Pocket Borg gave fine wide views, I think it had a 17mm eye piece in in giving about 15x,clouds kept drifting across.with the earlier Venus transit a few years before the first Mercury one it was cloudy all day so I went back to bed!the Thousand Oaks solar film is tougher but much less flexible than the Baadar but you have to be careful as you can get tiny nicks in the Baadar.i did object to the Thousand Oaks people sending me political messages about Israel,pro,with my solar film as I wanted their film not their views on the State of Israel!!of which I have a fairly neutral opinion and can see both sides of the argument,as they say if the boot was on the other foot,ie/the Palestinians, would things be much different just the other way around?

  2. Didn’t know there was a Mercury transit on Nov 19th!

    For the Mercury transit on May 2016, had two scopes set up (with sun funnels) near the entrance to UCLA. Unfortunately the morning stayed cloudy and never got to see it.

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