The Messenger Crosses the Sun

On Monday, Nov 11th, Mercury made its fourth transit across the sun this century. AAA members across New York City and beyond experienced this rare occurrence as the small planet took 5 ½ hours to cross the face of our star. At least nine observing sites were active in four boroughs and several members spoke on the transit during a live stream at B&H Photo’s Event Space.

AAA got several mentions in the media as a source for viewing locations, in a Nov 11 New York Times article on the transit, on the Monday morning broadcast of WNYC radio and in a Space.com story. The City College of New York Tweeted: “check AAA for list of NYC locations”.

Faissal Halim and Chirag Upreti were active posting to the club and astrophotography Instagram accounts (@aaadotorg and @aaany_astrophotography).

Telescopes were set up at the High Line, Columbus Circle, Carl Schurz Park, the American Museum of Natural History, East River Park and Central Park in Manhattan, Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn, Riverdale in the Bronx and at La Guardia Airport in Queens.

Matthias Schmitt was in Shepard Park in Cocoa Beach, Florida, named after Alan Shepard, a Mercury 7 astronaut and first American in space. Check out his helmet with wings and a Mercury symbol t-shirt in the photo gallery.

Here’s a wrap up of a few of the sites, look for separate articles on Floyd Bennet Field, AMNH and East River Park.

Katherine Troche was at the High Line: “I had about 200 people stop by (178 from my clicker by the time I packed down) at the High Line (30th Street and 11th Ave entrance). I had two telescopes set up: my Celestron 90 SLT and Coronado solar scope. I went from 11:30 a.m. until the end of the transit.

Some folks knew I was there from AAA and mentioned us by name. Some knew something was up with Mercury and some happened to stop by.

Crowd was great; super excited and happy we were out on Monday. We talked about the Transit, and the upcoming 2024 solar eclipse a lot.”

Rori Baldari took a break during lunch hour: “I took my telescope out and set it up in the parking lot at my workplace, at LaGuardia airport.” I observed the transit during my lunch break between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. About 25 of my coworkers were treated to the event, and very much appreciated it.

I had first asked permission from our CEO to do this, explained it was completely safe, and he approved and directed an email be sent out the Friday before to all the employees at our facility telling them about the event. Then a reminder email was sent just before I went out to set up.

I used an 80mm refractor, with a Meade Herschel wedge as my white light filter, and a 5mm eyepiece to “really zoom in on Mercury.”

Jessica Santascoy and Parker Bossier were set up in Central Park. Jessica was by Heckscher Playground and Parker was on a walking path near Columbus Circle.

Jessica said, “Almost everyone who came up to our scope said that they’d heard about the event on the news and were sad because they didn’t know how they were going to see it.” So, people were thrilled to see Mercury through the scope.

Parker and I estimated that we each had about 30-50 viewers. We were set up in different parts of the park. My partner Joe and I were by the playground and Parker was by the walking track nearest the 59th street subway station.

From Columbus Circle, Adjina Dekidjiev recalled:

“It was great, I ended up staying until 12:30 p.m., I’d say approximately 80-90 people came by, many read about it on our site and a few other websites. I kept moving around at first because of the buildings but then had a great view of the transit.”
There were some AAA members who stopped by, one person worked in the neighborhood and had an important meeting they were late for but said that it was worth it and didn’t leave for a while. I assume they missed the meeting. A lady was running around town trying to find someone with a telescope and was relieved to see me.

A lot of tourists, an Alitalia pilot, even a woman who was into astrology said that the transit affects all Zodiac signs, it’s a good time to be introspective and in numerology 11:11 is a powerful number which signifies enlightenment.

Some  wanted to make sure that they weren’t going to go blind if they looked in my scope.  I reassured them that I had a solar filter. It was my first time using my filter…glad there were no holes 🙂

During the transit, the B&H Photo Event Space in their store on Ninth Ave. provided a steady live stream of talks about the transit. Four AAA members spoke. Irene Pease, president of the AAA, started off the presentations on “History and Mechanics of Transits”;  Katherine Troche, NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, spoke on the MESSENGER Mission; Stan Honda, photographer and board member, on “Photographing the Transit of Mercury” and William Koster talked about Transiting Exoplanets. Also speaking were Micah Acinapura, Software Engineer on the OpenSpace project on “A view of Mercury in OpenSpace”  and Brian Levine, Hayden Presenter at the AMNH/Hayden Planetarium on Solar Missions.

All in all a great day to watch the fleeting messenger travel across the sun.

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