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AVAILABLE EXPERT - 2016 transit of Mercury

Friday, May 6, 2016

Queen's University astronomer David Hanes is available to comment on Mercury’s transit of the Sun on Monday, May 9. A transit of Mercury takes place when the planet comes between the Sun and the Earth, and Mercury is seen as a small black dot moving across the face of the Sun. Transits of Mercury with respect to Earth occur 13 to 14 times per century, occurring in May or November. The transit will be visible - although not with the naked eye - in the Eastern Time Zone from approximately 7 am to 3 pm.

“On Monday, astronomers will be treated to a once-a-decade spectacle as the planet Mercury will appear in silhouette, crossing the face of the Sun in an eight-hour transit,” says Dr. Hanes.  “Mercury, the innermost planet in the Solar System, is too small and distant an object to diminish the sun’s light perceptibly, and indeed a small telescope will be needed to make the transit visible at all, but the event is a nice reminder of a search technique that has led to the discovery of many hundreds of planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.  In this way, astronomers have learned that extensive planetary systems are commonplace in our Milky Way galaxy, with all that implies for the possible existence of extraterrestrial life forms.”

Dr. Hanes is a professor of in the department of Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy at Queen’s University. His research focuses on globular star clusters, observational cosmology and galaxy formation. He is available on Friday, May 6 to preview the event, as well as on Monday, May 9 to provide comment.

To arrange an interview, please contact communications officer Chris Armes (613-533-6000 ext. 77513 or chris.armes@queensu.ca) or Anne Craig (613-533-2877 or anne.craig@queensu.ca) at Queen’s University News and Media Services Department in Kingston, Ont., Canada.

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