Mercury’s transit today

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Here are a few links on today’s transit of the Sun by Mercury, which is going on right now.

I could give more, but this event is hardly as important as many new media are saying. It is interesting, and rare, and important in that it helps scientists get a better understanding of the uncertainties in their exoplanet research, but hardly important scientifically.

Consider this however: Mercury’s real orbit has it circle the sun every 88 days. If we could only detect it by the transits seen from Earth, we would only see it cross the Sun in 2006, 2016, 2019, and 2032. Figuring out its real orbit from that data would likely be impossible. Now, I realize that these seemingly random transits are partly determined by the Earth’s own orbit around the Sun, but they still illustrate that our use of transits to detect and characterize exoplanets has its limits. And in science one must always be aware of one’s limits.


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