A chance to watch the transit of Mercury

Bill Hrudey adjusts a telescope for 2012's transit of Venus, which attracted about 1,000 people to a Camana Bay rooftop. The public is being invited to a viewing of the transit of Mercury at the Observatory at UCCI on Monday morning, May 9.

The Cayman Islands Astronomical Society and the University College of the Cayman Islands are joining forces to offer a glimpse of a rare astronomical event.

On the morning of Monday, May 9, for a few hours the planet Mercury will slowly cross the sun’s disk, appearing to observers as a tiny black dot in the event known as the transit of Mercury.

Astronomical Society and UCCI invite schools and the general public to the Dr. Wm. Hrudey Observatory located on the UCCI campus.

Chris Cooke, president of the Cayman Islands Astronomical Society, said members of the general public and schools will be able to see in detail the Transit of Mercury, with people having the opportunity to see the sun safely, as attempting to look directly the sun without the correct equipment may cause damage to the eyes.

The event is free as the aim is to promote astronomy as a way of encouraging the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math in the Cayman Islands.

“We are quick to admit the Transit of Mercury is not as rare or spectacular as the Transit of Venus, which many people attended on June 5, 2012, but our telescopes since then are much better,” said Mr. Cooke.

“On that afternoon, over a thousand people came to watch the transit on a rooftop at Camana Bay,” he said.

That event was also organized by the Astronomical Society and UCCI and included the transmission of the transit via the Internet to Trinidad, where a live three-hour TV program was broadcast using the images.

“This time we will hopefully see the planet Mercury perform the same trick,” said Mr. Cooke.

“To be fair, Mercury will be seen as a tiny dot, but we will also be able to view the sun itself which may at the time also show sunspots and flares.”

The Dr. Wm. Hrudey Observatory opened its roof in February 2012 on the UCCI campus and has promoted academic research in astronomy, as well as encouraging public visits. Dr. Hrudey is also the prime advocate of the UCCI STEM conferences, the fourth one set to take place in October. The Astronomical Society has been a keen supporter of the observatory and STEM conferences since their inception.

The general public is encouraged to pay a visit to the observatory to look through the telescopes, and the Astronomical Society also offers free public outreach to schools and societies.

In the near future, the Astronomical Society is also planning to give away 12 telescopes to local schools in order to help seed science clubs.

Contact [email protected] to book a time slot and for details of parking and the location of the Observatory.