COSAM News Articles 2019 December Auburn Students View Transit of Mercury

Auburn Students View Transit of Mercury

Published: 12/03/2019

By: Maria Gebhardt

“My dad graduated from Auburn in the 1980s and I am sending him photos of this event around the globe to New Zealand,” explained Clay Vinson, a mechanical engineering major.

He not only saw Mercury for the first time, but he texted his dad more than 8,000 miles away in his native New Zealand to share photos of this Transit of Mercury.

The smallest planet in our solar system passed in front of the sun and Auburn’s Department of Physics held an outdoor event so that students could participate.

Mercury was projected onto a screen through a solar filter-equipped telescope where it appeared as a black dot as it crossed the face of the sun. During a Transit of Mercury, the planet passes directly between the sun and another planet, so viewers watched it move during the five-hour event on the morning of November 11. 

Faculty and students from the Department of Physics explained what students were viewing and the significance of the transit including that this type of event was used to measure the true distance to the planet. 

Lindsey Stephens, an electrical engineering major, saw the planet for the first time.

“It is really great that Auburn students have a chance to be part of an event on their way to class,” Lindsey shared.

Jaden Jarman, a communications disorders major, missed the eclipse a few years ago and had to stop by this event.

“This is my first outdoor astronomical event, so it was really amazing to see it on the screen,” Jaden explained.

Connor Sullivan is a professional flight major and is looking forward to flying commercial airplanes one day.

“I love things like this and it is a fun opportunity to see something you would miss out on,” Connor explained.

Doctoral students in chemistry, Yvette Kayirangwa, had to stop by the event. She took physics in high school and loves celestial events.

“This is an absolutely fascinating day and I am glad to participate in something that won't happen again for 13 years,” Yvette said.

Previous Transits of Mercury occured on May 7, 2003, November 8, 2006, May 9, 2016, and November 11, 2019. The next will occur on November 13, 2032.

Latest Headlines
Select a year below.

Stay Connected