UA hosts public Mercury transit viewing on campus

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — If you like astronomy, today was a perfect day to gaze into the sky to view the rare transit of Mercury as it passes over the sun.

UA’s department of physics and astronomy hosted a public viewing of a transit of Mercury Monday morning on campus. Members of the public got the chance to see Mercury. The planet appeared as a small black dot as it slowly moved across the projected image onto a screen.

Dr. Ronald Buta is the professor of astronomy and says the rare transit was a thrill to watch.

“Transits are an interesting celestial phenomenon, only two plants in our solar system can transit in front of the sun. One is Mercury and the other is Venus. They can do that because their orbits are smaller than ours. So those are the only two planets we can see,” Buta said.

Several telescopes were set up outside at the observatory at Gallalee Hall so visitors could see the planet. NASA says Mercury passed directly past Earth and went across the face of the sun.  Because the planet is so small, NASA said that Mercury will appear as a tiny black dot as it glides in front of the sun over a period of seven and a half hours.

Mercury’s transit only happens about 13 times per century, because Earth, the sun, and Mercury rarely align perfectly.

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