WNCC turns telescopic eyes to the skies for rare planetary event
Appeal Staff Writer
Residents of Northern Nevada will be given a rare opportunity Wednesday morning, a live demonstration of order in the universe.
Beginning just after 11 a.m., the planet Mercury will pass between the Earth and the sun, providing a rare opportunity for amateur star-lovers and astronomers alike.
“If everything is right, every so often we can see the inferior planets if they cross in front of the sun,” said Walt Dillard, member of the Western Nevada Astronomical Society.
The event can be viewed throughout the country, but because of Northern Nevada’s location, Mercury will be visible here for its entire journey. The event will be visible from approximately 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
“This event takes place approximately 13 times each century, so come, be a participant and observe our solar system in action,” said Robert Collier, WNCC professor and observatory director. “The last time Mercury transited the sun was in 2003.”
To provide a safe way to view the event, the Jack C. Davis Observatory at Western Nevada Community College will have telescopes with filters to view the planet.
“We urge people not to look at the sun, you can do permanent damage to your eyes by looking into the sun unprotected,” Dillard said.
The observatory will display the picture on large screen televisions as well as having telescopes equipped specifically to view the sun.
“This doesn’t happen very often,” Dillard said. “Being able to predict when events like this happen confirms for us what we know about celestial mechanics and the Laws of Newton about how celestial objects behave.”
Mercury is not expected to cross between the Earth and sun again for at least a decade.
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.
If you go
What: Viewing of Mercury crossing between the Earth and sun
When: Between 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Jack C. Davis Observatory at Western Nevada Community College
Cost: Event is free and open to the public