FARMINGTON – The transit of Mercury appeared as a small seemingly insignificant dot as it passed in front of the sun Monday, but the magic wasn’t lost to viewers at San Juan College.
Passersby were able to take a peek at the event from 9 to 11 a.m. thanks to the aid of a telescope in the courtyard set up by the college’s planetarium. As faculty and students stepped up to take a peek, more than one person wondered at the small black dot seen against the vast white-yellow background of the sun. “No way, that’s Mercury?” said one student.
Mercury passed between the sun and the Earth, making itself visible as a small black dot. The transit started at 5:35 a.m. and ended around 11:04 a.m., when the planet completed the transit and disappeared from view. The next Mercury transit won’t occur until November 2032.
“Most of your field is going to be the sun, just looks like a yellow-white ball. The little black dot, perfectly round, is Mercury’s silhouette,” said David Mayeux, astronomy professor and planetarium coordinator. Mayeux set up the telescope and helped identify the planet.
“Even though Mercury passes around between the Earth and the sun every three months, usually it’s right above or right below the disk of the sun,” Mayeux said. “It just happens today that it’s passing exactly in front.”
Danielle Sullivan, associate professor of English at San Juan College, said while it might not look like much through the telescope, “understanding it is really cool,” and knowing it’s so rare makes it special.
“I actually dismissed my class early so they could come and take a look,” she said.