Astronomy in Transit

November 17, 2019, 2:38 PM HST (Updated November 17, 2019, 2:38 PM)
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The Institute for Astronomy helped people gathered at Waiʻalae Beach Park to observe the event. PC: University of Hawaii

The planet Mercury did its best Icarus impression last week, and students from the University of Hawa‘i traveled to the Big Island for a chance to witness it.

University of Hawaiʻi astronomers joined many observers around the world in tracking the transit of Mercury on Monday, Nov. 11. A transit is when a planet passes in front of a star. Mercury and Venus are the only two planets that can be observed from Earth in transit.

About 30 UH Mānoa students flew to Hawaiʻi Island to view the event at the Subaru Telescope as part of a group of around 200 people to use solar telescopes.

UH Mānoa’s Institute for Astronomy held a viewing party at Waiʻalae Beach Park for more than 100 people.

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Mercury takes just 88 days to circle the Sun. It passes between the Sun and Earth frequently but usually out of view.

The transit of Mercury will not be seen from Earth again until November 2032, and not from Hawaiʻi until 2049. The next transit of Venus will not be visible from Earth until 2117.

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