Chasing Mercury at KWU

On a day the mercury fell in Salina with bone chilling temperatures and snow, members of the Salina Astronomy Club (SAC) were poised to watch the planet Mercury travel across the face of the sun.

According to Jeffrey Kasoff with SAC, clear skies and a solar telescope is all you need to safely view the planet Mercury as it passes between the Earth and Sun.

Hoping the clouds would break, club members began the quest at Indian Rock Monday morning. When conditions did not improve they headed to the Observatory at Kansas Wesleyan University and waited.

“You can look at snowflakes through a microscope – but we’re looking at snowflakes through a telescope today,” Kasoff said with a grin.

Kasoff and crew did not totally miss the celestial event as they viewed a live feed of Mercury in transit from NASA. The rare chance for observing the planet race across the solar landscape occurs only about 13 times every century.

Planet Mercury (black dot) travels across sun in this November 11th photo from Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ


Kasoff says mapping the path and velocities of Mercury and the other known planets dates back to the scientific work done by Johannes Kepler in the early 1600’s.


Next chance for sky watchers to see Mercury cross the sun will occur in 2032 for observers in Europe and Asia.

Kasoff added the Salina Astronomy Club will touch on the event during their next monthly meeting, coming up Friday December, 13 at Peters Science Hall at KWU at 7:30pm.