Sunny Morning for a Transit

A boy looks at the Mercury transit through Roman Barroso’s solar filtered telescope at East River Park. Photo by Roman Barroso

On Nov. 11 in East River Park in Manhattan, a team of amateur astronomers and astro-photographers from the AAA met to document the transit of Mercury and show it, through telescopes, to people passing through the park.

A few days earlier, the climatologists said we would have a cloudy day; fortunately, nature delighted us with a sunny morning, perfect to observe and photograph the transit of Mercury.

In our 6 hours, we had plenty of time to take photographs and allow passersby to observe this magnificent cosmic event through telescopes equipped for solar observation. (YOU CANNOT OBSERVE THE SUN WITH A SIMPLE SCOPE; YOU CAN BE BLINDED INSTANTLY.)

A couple arrived with their son after seeing the event on the AAA website. While I was showing the mother and son the transit through the telescope, the dad went into his backpack and took out binoculars. In the moment I saw him lift and direct them toward the sun, I released his son and urged him to stop. I yelled “Mister, no! Don’t do that. You will go blind!” He responded quickly by saying he purchased special binoculars to observe the sun. I asked if I could check and apologized. I returned his binoculars after verifying that they were indeed fitted with the correct filters to observe the sun.