On Monday, Nov. 11, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School astronomy teacher, Brandon Kyle Jeter, hosted a morning event to watch mercury cross in front of the sun. Taking place in Marjory’s Garden, all of Jeter’s students, their friends and family members, and colleagues were in attendance to view this semi-rare astronomical event through special solar lens filters.
In addition to seeing this solar event, attendees were also able to see SpaceX, a private space exploration company founded by Elon Musk, launch their Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida right before the event began. However, due to unfortunate positions of clouds in the morning sky, those who attended were unable to see the launch from the football field bleachers where they were seated at the time.
There were roughly 60 people in attendance at this morning event, from a range of ages. “It was really cool and I felt really lucky it just so happened to be the year I’m here,” senior Elee Siev said.
The last time that the transit of Mercury occurred was just three years ago on May 9, 2016. It was so recent because transits of Mercury come in pairs that typically range from two to ten years apart from one another, but each set of pairs average about a century apart from one another. The next Mercury transit will occur on November 13, 2032.
However, this event can be difficult to see even if one does not know when it is occurring. Since Mercury is much smaller than the Sun in relative scale to one another, special filters on a telescope are required to see it during its period of transit in front of the Sun.
“I appreciate how many of my students came out for this. As a science educator, it’s important to get the public excited about science and nature,” Jeter said.
While Jeter considers this to be a very successful event, he is not taking breaks from astronomy events anytime soon.
“I really look forward to the Winter skies… [where] we can see things like the Orion Nebula. I am also looking forward to the NASA trip on February 7,” Jeter said.
While the next Astronomy Night was cancelled, Jeter hosts them every month in order to keep an active interest in the night sky among the MSD community.