Monday, November 21, 2011

Simultaneous Planetary Transit: Mercury Transits Jupiter

Simultaneous astronomical planetary phenomena are rare spectacles only for those with pure, theoretical interest in astronomy becasue of the rarities and 'abstract' thought concerning it. Yes, we here on earth have and will experience transits of planets (only two, respectively Mercury and Venus), but Jupiter and the other planets have a better variety, with Neptune having the cadence of them all! Jupiter is able to see Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars transit the surface of the Sun, and it is an incredible finding that we were able to discern it!

On November 28, 2011, the planet Mercury will transit the face of the Sun, as seen only by Jupiter. But how can this be?, after all, we cannot even see it. Because the synodic period (orbital period) of each planet is 89.792 days, a formula can be calculated to determine such events, as shown below. P represents the sidereal orbital period of Mercury (which is respectively 87.968435 days) and Q represents the orbital period of Jupiter (respectively 4330.595 days). If we plug them into the equation we achieve these:


Now, of course, these simultaneous planetary transits are not very recent; below is the title of an article publish by the Royal Astronomical Society in 1886, Note on the Transit of the Planet Mars and its Satellites across the Sun’s disc, which will occur for the Planet Jupiter and its Satellites on April 13, 1886. It can be accessed here. Below is some general information about the transit, i.e., where will the planet pass and what coordinates will the sun be relative to Jupiter, etc.

Passage of Mercury across the Sun as seen from Jupiter

Transits of Mercury from Jupiter: 2005-2100
December 25, 2005 September 5, 2053
March 26, 2006 May 10, 2059
November 28, 2011 August 8, 2059
February 26, 2012 June 23, 2065
January 12, 2018 February 26, 2071
September 17, 2023 May 27, 2071
December 15, 2023 April 11, 2077
October 31, 2029 December 16, 2082
July 6, 2035 March 15, 2083
October 3, 2035 January 28, 2089
August 18, 2041 April 29, 2089
November 17, 2041 January 1, 2095
July 22, 2047 November 17, 2100
June 6, 2053

This is a rather central transit; as you see in the yellow Sun above with the path of Mercury, Mercury passes right through the center. February 26, 2011's transit (other link above) passes at the very top of the Sun. Therefore, this transit is rather rare.

Recent and Upcoming Transits

AD  2011 Nov 28  20:51 C     Transit of Mercury on Jupiter
    AD  2011 Dec 30  16:46 G     Transit of Mercury on Saturn 
    AD  2012 Feb 26  04:38 G     Transit of Mercury on Jupiter
    AD  2012 Mar 28  12:20 C     Transit of Mercury on Saturn 
    AD  2012 May 06  11:34 C     Transit of Venus on Saturn   
    AD  2012 Jun 06  01:31 C     Transit of Venus on Earth    
    AD  2012 Jun 25  08:10 C     Transit of Mercury on Saturn 
    AD  2012 Sep 20  09:54 C     Transit of Venus on Jupiter  
    AD  2012 Sep 22  04:16 C     Transit of Mercury on Saturn 

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