|11 November, 2019

UAE residents trace Mercury darting across the sun

It's a rare astronomical alignment which last took place in 2016 and the next one won't happen until 2032

Image used for illustrative purpose. An Emirati man uses a telescope to take a picture of the lunar eclipse of a full "Blood Moon" at Al Sadeem Observatory in Al Wathba near Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates July 27, 2018.

Image used for illustrative purpose. An Emirati man uses a telescope to take a picture of the lunar eclipse of a full "Blood Moon" at Al Sadeem Observatory in Al Wathba near Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates July 27, 2018.

REUTERS/Christopher Pike

UAE residents were in for a rare stellar treat on Monday as Mercury transit took over the skies. The next transit will happen only after 12 years.

The spectacle brought more than 100 residents to Al Thuraya Astronomy Centre, where they saw how Mercury was passing directly between the earth and sun. Seen as a tiny dot against the sun, the event started about 4.30pm in the UAE and lasted 58 minutes.

Typically, the full transit lasts several hours.

It's a rare astronomical alignment which last took place in 2016 and the next one won't happen until 2032.

"The Mercury transit is basically an eclipse of planet Mercury from our perspective. It is the crossing of the Mercury's disk in front of the sun as we look at it from the earth's point of view," the CEO of the centre, Hasan Al Hariri, said. "The significance of this event is that it shows us there are planets rotating the solar system and proves that the earth is not flat. We can measure the planets rotating around solar system. Usually, people don't know about this planet and this (event)helps us verify astronomical science.

"Events as such help people become more knowledgeable and the observation is very unique. It helps people develop a passion towards astronomy."

From 2000 to 2199, there will be 27 transits of Mercury and they mainly occur in May or November. The ones in November occur about twice as often as the ones in May.

Residents who went to the centre enjoyed the show by viewing it through a telescope which was equipped with adequate filtration that ensured safe solar viewing, as looking directly at the sun without proper eye protection can seriously hurt the eyes and even cause blindness.

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