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by  James Kevin Ty

Images by James Kevin Ty / Allen Yu (H-alpha) / Alexander Loinaz (sunburst) / Christopher Go (H-alpha)

Last November 9, members of the Astronomical League of the Philippines went to PAGASA Observatory in UP-Diliman to set up their equipment to observe the Mercury Transit at their roofdeck.  Among the members who went their to observe with the group were ALPers James Kevin Ty, Alexander Loinaz, Peter Benedict Tubalinal, Jett Aguilar, Allen Yu, Dante Cruz, Rafael Lunar, Jonathan Alcartado, Hans Gideon Cerdenia, Maximo Sacro, Kristy Abello , new member Michelle Lampa, guest Dennis Llante, Angelito Sing as well as PAGASA staff members Elmor Escosia, Dario dela Cruz, Ruben Cunanan and Michael Bala.

James, Peter, Dennis and Alexander arrived at around 2:30am to start to setup their equipment with Jett, Allen and Jonathan arriving an hour later.   James brought along his trusty TV-101 refractor and Coronado PST on Vixen GP-D   mount; Peter setup his 2.4" refractor on tripod ; Alex with his 1000mm f/10 Maksutov Mirror Lens on EQ-1061109loinaz-a.jpg (35891 bytes) mount; Jett brought along a Celestron SCTs Nexstar C5 and C8 on Vixen GP-D mount ; Allen with his Orion 80ED refractor and Solarmax 40 setup on a 60mm f/9 refractor on HEQ-5 mount. PAGASA's Dario and Ruben used a Meade 7" Maksutov LX-200 to document the event as well.  Dennis brought his Orion ST-80 refractor on EQ-1 mount.

At around 5:30am, everyone was all setup and ready to wait for the sunrise which was expected to be around 5:58am that morning. As the first sunlight creeping up the eastern horizon, a beautiful sunburst greeted them and it was very dramatic that Alexander, a avid nature photographer as well, took the opportunity to image it as well.

Unfortunately, there was a think smog and clouds that was hovering around the eastern horizon and it took another 15 mintues before they can see the Sun through thin haze and some electrical wires for them to be able to image the Sun after it rose above the clouds!

Then the sound of camera shutters firing away signal the start of documentation for the last Mercury transit to be visible in the Philippines until 2032!  Mercury can be seen already inside the disk of the Sun as the event started already with the Sun still below our horizon and we here locally would only be able to view the last part of the transit (3rd and 4th contact) and  were expecting ALP US members Jun Lao and Eric Africa to be able to image the 1st and 2nd contact of the transit on the other part of their continent :)

But there was a little problem..... the seeing was very bad!   The group was expecting it already as prior to the event, there was a halo around the Moon at around 3:00 a.m. in the morning which suggests that  ice crystals are present high in the atmosphere :(  It took more than 1.5 hours for the seeing to improve from a measly 2/10 at the start of sunrise to around 5/10 prior to the 3rd contact.  

Jett was asking James if he was able to get a good view of the Mercury as in his computer screen, Mercury was jumping all around the field and exhibiting an oblong disk!  James replied that even at whole disk imaging, it was very obvious the seeing was very bad.  Imagine, at low res whole disk solar imaging by James, one can see Mercury popping in and out of focus which signifies really bad seeing!  What's more with what Jett was experiencing with his setup doing high res close up shot of Mercury with a Toucam webcam camera attached to his C8.  He later got  a bit fed up with the view that he installed a reducer to scal down his image scale in the hope to get a decent image from it.

James , on the other hand, had a hard time getting a good focus on the PST because the image was really soft because of the bad seeing and he asked Allen on his SM40 view.  He also said his image was also soft and hard to focus unlike the last time around in 2003. James then decided to concentrate on the white light for the 3rd and 4th contact timings instead from the PST.

James started out with whole disk white light through his TV-101 refractor and a Baader 3.8 Photo density filter so as not to degrade the image too much during the early part of the event.  He later shifted to high res closeup imaging in white light through an INTES Herschel Wedge to try to nail as accurate as possible in timing the 3rd and 4th contact times. James had recorded the 3rd contact to be at 08:08:49 Phil Standard Time (PST) or 00:08:49 UT while 4th contact was recorded at 08:10:30 PST or 00:10:30 UT.  Location coordinates is 14 deg 39' 04" N and 121 deg 09' 21" E.

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Also noted was the black drop effect (small faint black notch between the Mercury and limb) was also seen but not that evident like the last 2003 event

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Below is an image taken by Allen Yu (left) through his Coronado SM40 through a 60mm refractor showing the whole disk of the Sun midway through the event, and a closeup shot by Christopher Go (right) taken with his SM60 through a AP130 refractor.

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Below is an animated gif made by ALPer Chrsitopher Go from the last 10 minutes of this event taken in H-alpha light with his   AP130 refractor.  To see his other great images of the event, please visit http://christone.net/astro/mtransit/ .

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Over in Cebu and Baguio where ALPers Christopher Go and John Nassr observe this event, reports had it that Chris and the best seeing site for the event as seeing was well around 9/10 while John reports fair seeing.  As for our ALP US counterpart, Jun Lao and Eric Africa had to travel out of Cincinnati for 3 hours just to get a good view but because of that, they missed out first contact and second contact by less than 2 minutes! :(   Nevertheless they were able to view the event until sunset.

Overall, the event was a success specially here in Philippines as majority of observers around the country reports being able to observe the event and both contacts.

Going back to PAGASA session.  Members were also happy to see a new big sunspot AR923 emerging from the eastern limb and we expect the solar maniacs like John Nassr and James Kevin Ty to be monitoring this group in the coming week. :) LOL

Before the group packed up, members of the ALP as well as PAGASA staff had a group pic taken for posterity. 

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Members of the Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP) and PAGASA Observatory Staff posed for posterity after a successful joint documentation of the November 9, 2006 Mercury Transit. @ James Kevin Ty


To see activity images of this event , click here.

To see member's images of the transit, click here.

Personal Reports of ALP members:

Allen Yu / Christopher Go / Jett Aguilar



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