This was the first one of these I have observed. Obviously not the fanfare associated with the Venus event 4 years ago now. (see “Road trip to Venus” link at the top of the blog page) There have been 4 of these since 1999. The next one is in 2019, so not really that rare. Still it’s fascinating to witness the solar system in motion! I would say the most impressive thing about this is how small Mercury is. Basically a black dot crossing the Sun, not even as big as a sunspot! If you think about it, not surprising because it’s only a little larger than our own Moon. So needless to say the visual appearance through the telescope was very cool, but imaging not so much. Conditions were a bit windy, but I didn’t have to travel 500 miles to get out of bad weather to see it like I did for the Venus transit!
This was the set up to start off. I have a modified Orion ED80 with added HA filters. The visual observations were great but I could not image through the scope as it has accumulated a lot of dust and junk overt he years. Might be time to upgrade. I switched to white light observing which was a lot cleaner
The transit was already close to 2 hours in progress when the Sun rose. This is about 2 hours after that, toward the latter part of the transit. You can see Mercury is a mere pin dot on the right! There is a small sunspot group to the left. Mercury is even smaller than that! These were captured with Tak FS102 refractor and Canon 600D. ISO 400 and 1/4000 exposure.
Transit almost over. Mercury is seen on the far right about to exit the theater!
This is the entire sequence as observed from Las Cruces NM. Transit ended at 12:40 MDT
Now it’s time to start work on the reason for being here…the Observatory! (which I still need a name for). At the top of the property the observatory structure is now staked out. It is a 15.5 foot square roll off structure. We have hired Backyard Observatories (BYO) to do the building. They are well known in the area and have built several of these here and across the street at New Mexico Skies. (Also throughout the country!) I have done quite a bit of research on this and it does seem that people are generally happy with their product. However they only do the actual observatory and internal electrical. They don’t do the foundation, piers or electrical connection from your main dwelling. They are NOT a full service contractor in case you decide to go with them. Maybe you save some cost with that arrangement. I am not sure since I have never done this before. So this is going to be interesting. We have to come up with a foundation and electrical connection from the house. So far there doesn’t seem to be a lot of specifics regarding what they require. It took several emails to learn they need J-bolts in the cinder block to connect to their frame! They sent me a very rough generic drawing of the observatory which was kind of difficult to read for someone who is not in the building business. Anyway they are scheduled to come out in June. We have a cement guy to do the foundation and piers. He is the guy who did the foundation for the house so I think that should work out. It’s difficult in these remote areas to find people to do this stuff. The contractors who did the other observatories out here is completely booked until the end of the year! So it’s onward and upward!
This is the staked out observatory structure at the top of the property. It is 15.5 foot square roll-off roof design. The observing area is 10 foot long north to south by 15.5 wide. The roof slides off to the north. There will be 2 piers labeled “P”. “O” is the observing area. “W” is the warm room. North and South directions also are marked
This is the wide field view of the observatory looking East
This is drawing from BYO. North is up. It is a rough generic drawing. They have the piers only 4’4″ from the wall in case we wanted shelving in the observing room, which we don’t so in our case it will be 5′.