Hundreds of space enthusiasts in Delhi witnessed a tiny black dot crossing the Sun, marking a rare astronomical event — the Mercury transit as the planet crossed the Sun between 4.43 p.m. and 7.01 p.m. on Monday.
However, in Srinagar, where astrophysicists and space experts gathered under the aegis of Indian Astronomical Congress to witness the transit had to rely on webcasting from Noida, Uttar Pradesh, as clouds blocked the Sun in the valley.
“It’s a very rare event, as last time it occurred in 2006 but was not visible in India. The next transit is due 16 years from now, which is a long time. The cloudy weather here in Srinagar, did obstruct the observation but the live streaming helped a lot,” Prof. Manzoor Malik, HOD Physics, Kashmir University, told IANS on phone from Srinagar.
He said the discussions and debates drawn from the conclusions of the transit will be initiated by the Indian Astronomical Congress from Tuesday onwards at the varsity.
In the national capital, people, especially children were mesmerized after watching the rare celestial event at the Nehru Planetarium.
“It was a lifetime experience and I am so excited to share my experience with my friends tomorrow. I first spotted a small dot cross over the Sun, later the planetarium officials briefed me and told that it’s a rare moment I’m witnessing,” Ishani Nair, a Class 5 student from Elizabeth Gauba School, told IANS.
“The Mercury transit left me spellbound. Through a solar telescope I could see the planet Mercury crossing in front of the Sun. It was like a tiny object moving between the Sun and the earth,” Deepanshu, a Class 6 student, said.
According to Nehru Planetarium director N. Rathnashree around 1,000 people came to see the Mercury transit event at Teen Murti.
“We had made different projection set ups using solar telescope to facilitate people to witness such an important and rare celestial event. This opportunity allowed people to see the rare astronomical event in real than what they read in text books,” Rathnashree told IANS.
Mukesh Sharma from Nehru Planetarium said that this was a rare astronomical event that takes place roughly only 10 times in a century. Last time it was sighted in 2006.
“Venus stands between the earth and Mercury, so it’s a rare moment when Mercury would directly come between the earth and the Sun. However, though much is known about the planet Mercury, the transit would still be useful for the researchers,” said Sharma.
Mercury is the smallest, and the next planet to the Sun. It takes 88 earth days to orbit around the sun.