We've been watching this event for 300 years
06 May 2016
As we prepare for the Transit of Mercury here at the Royal Observatory our curator, Louise Devoy, looks back to observations made here in 1753.
Astronomical Observations, made at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, from the year 1750 to the year 1762, volume 1 (RMG ID item: PBG0607/1)
As we turn our thoughts towards Mercury and the forthcoming transit on 9 May, here is a great example of how astronomers at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, have observed this event over the past 300 years. The volume shown here is the compilation of observations made by the third Astronomer Royal, James Bradley (1692-1762), during his 20 year career at Greenwich.
On 6 May 1753, shortly after dawn, he observed the last few hours of the transit of Mercury as the inner planet appeared to move across the face of the Sun. The inclination of Mercury’s orbit means that it usually appears above or below the Sun, as seen from Earth, but occasionally, all three celestial bodies lie in the same plane and the black disc of Mercury appears to cross the Sun’s disc over several hours. These transits occur in 3-year pairs approximately every 10 years; this means that the next one for us will be on 11 Nov 2019, followed by another set in the 2030s.
For more details on how you can safely observe the transit here at Greenwich with our expert astronomers, visit our website
We'll also be sharing live pictures from our Great Equatorial Telescope on Twitter