UGA astronomers offer program on rare celestial event in November

Athens, Ga. – Astronomers at the University of Georgia will be busy in November, with two programs, including one that will examine the unusual event involving the planet Mercury.

The first program on Wednesday, Nov. 8, will rely on good weather, but the payoff could be spectacular. On that day, Mercury will appear in a moderately rare transit that places it directly between the Earth and the sun. If the weather is clear, UGA astronomers will have telescopes with special solar filters on the Myers Quad so spectators can see the planet. The program is planned to last from 3-5 p.m.

“Do not try to view this event without proper protection for your eyes,” warns astronomy professor J. Scott Shaw. “Our telescopes will allow you to view the event safely.”

The next such transit by Mercury will not be until May 2016.

The second public program is a lecture on Friday, Nov. 10, in which Professor Loris Magnani will speak on “A Pictorial History of the Arecibo Observatory.” The talk will take place at 7 p.m. in room 202 of the UGA Physics Building. The Arecibo Observatory is home of the world’s largest radio telescope, a giant dish a thousand feet across that has been featured in movies such as Contact and Golden Eye.

Magnani, who was a staff scientist at Arecibo from 1987-1991, will review the development of the telescope as a modern scientific research instrument.