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Mercury before the Sun - the most comfortable Eclipse of the Century?!

The Transit of Mercury on 07. May 2003 in Dreieich, Germany

Experience Report

When does the solar eclipse once come home, and additionally also into the own bedroom, so to say directly before the own bed? It can not be so comfortably at all, if one considers that otherwise one undertakes far journeys to distant countries, in order to be able to experience the cosmic coverage of the sun. Best would be to have it a little time after get up to setup and adjust the equipment. Then it is just to start please, when everything is ready.

Hardly to believe, but true! Thus it happened on the morning 7. May 2003 with me at home in Dreieich, when about a quarter hour before beginning of the Transit of Mercury of the year 2003 the sun has risen about 15 degrees over the horizon out of a hazy light cloud appearance. Still in the evening before it was announced in the weather forecasts, that a cloud band should shift over the center of Germany and should only in the course of the day slowly dissolve. But already in the this evening the lunar crescent withstood the drawing up clouds reliably. The wind turned to northeast directions, a good indication for a weather that should permit the observation of the rare sky event.

07:00 o'clock CEST. Still there were now and then small clouds, which coated the sun, however not lead to its disappearing. The situation worsened a few minutes before the ingress of Mercury before the sun’s disk, when a cloud bank seemed to be formed at short notice. The sun disappeared briefly behind it, but in time at 7:11 o'clock it was again visible. Still surrounded by plenty of clouds, partly more thicker, some less thick. At 100x magnification in the telescope (Celestron C5 (f=1250mm) with 12,5mm eyepiece) lots of grey to white and yellow tones could be seen. The strong haze permitted (at this high enlargement) those observation still without filter, if handled extremely carefully. There is a bulge at the solar limb? Could be. 07:15 o'clock - the suspicion becomes certainty: The planet Mercury has moved before the sun and it’s a bit more than 5 hours lasting way over the sun’s disk has begun.

Sun and Clouds

06:58 CEST - The sun comes out.

Taken with a Canon EOS500N with Canon tele zoom 75-300mm and Canon 2x tele converter, at 600mm and f8 (f16), 1/750 second exposed on Fuji200 negative film.

Transit of Mercury at 1820mm

07:24 CEST - Mercury is in front of the sun!

Taken with a Canon EOS500N focally through a Revue refractor (f=910mm, D=60mm) with Canon 2x tele converter, 1/60 second exposed on Fuji200 negative film. Filter: Baader foil D=3.8

The sun continued to climb, the clouds disappeared. Very soon an observation was only possible with filter. Now it gave much much time. Mercury made its way. Approximately at the center of the sun stood a sunspot, which could be seen also with the naked eye (trough the solar eclipse eyeglasses). Mercury was however (with filter foil provided) visible at least using the 8x30 binoculars. Only a small black spot, which covered the sun, but it is solar eclipse! Without binoculars or telescope however not perceptibly. Also no changes of the light, as it can be noticed during partial solar eclipses.

When Mercury had crossed already for a long time its deepest location in the sun’s disk, small cloudy formed, which darkened the sun sometimes again. The egress of Mercury could be seen then however without a turbidity. The Olympus OM1 camera behind the Celestron C5 (f=1250mm, D=125mm) with 12,5mm eyepiece, the Revue refraktor (f=910mm, D=60mm) with Canon EOS500N camera and 2x tele converter came into action to capture the egress (like already before). I used the third telescope, the SkyWatcher refractor (f=700mm, D=70mm) for observation (with 5mm eyepiece for the observation of the egress).

Trnsit of Mercury through the Telescope

07:18 CEST - Mercury some minutes after the ingress before the sun’s disk

Taken with an Olympus OM1 camery through a Celestron C5 (f=1250mm, D=125mm) with 12,5mm eyepiece, 1/125 second exposed on Fuji800 negative film.

Merkuraustritt 1 Merkuraustritt 3 Merkuraustritt 2 Merkuraustritt 4

Stephan Heinsius, Dreieich
©SH 2003 - all rights reserved

12:25-12:28 CEST - Mercury at egress from the sun’s disk

Taken with a Canon EOS500N focally through Revue refractor (f=910mm, D=60mm) with Canon 2x tele converter, 1/1000 second exposed on Fuji200 negative film . Filter: Baader foil D=3.8

I can not say exactly, whether now the famous droplet phenomenon could be seen, because parallel observing and photographing at 3 telescopes bound my attention during the short minutes of the egress. Also on the pictures such can not be recognized clearly.

12:32 o'clock CEST - no more Mercury to see. Time for dismantling the devices, which similarly as the setup sampled out quite comfortably and time-saving.

A great experience, a small, but nevertheless so long solar eclipse. And a beautiful foretaste on the transit of Venus in 2004, which, taking place at a similar time, could become then a just as comfortable solar eclipse. But the race is not still decided around the most comfortable eclipse of the century, because the weather always is the factor, which decides finally on observing or non-observing, or nevertheless still takes away the comfort from the eclipse by one judging it necessary to look for another location.

Stephan Heinsius, Dreieich, 07. May 2003. Addition by pictures on 16. May and 01. June 2003.

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