Astronomy in 2016

Not a lot has been happening here lately. Shame on me.

Let's take a look at what's coming up in Southern California for the first part of this year, astronomically speaking...

Mercury Transit – May 9
On the morning of May 9th, Southern Californians will get a good view of Mercury's transit across the face of the Sun. While a Mercury transit isn't quite the spectacle of a Venus transit (nor is it as rare), it's still an exciting event. Transits, like their more dramatic brethren, eclipses, are fantastic at providing rarely glimpsed perspective on a massive scale. Seeing two solar system bodies that are at opposite ends of the size spectrum provides a sense of scale that is difficult to achieve in any other natural way. During the transit, keep in mind that the Sun is roughly 93 million miles from us and Mercury is about 57 million miles from us. While Mercury is a lot closer, it's tiny size is fantastically dwarfed by the enormity of the Sun. Mercury will appear as little more than a black speck against the giant disk of the Sun.

From Southern California, the transit will be in progress already when the Sun rises at about 6AM on Monday, May 9th. But it will continue for about another 6 hours... so enjoy!

You'll need a telescope to view this transit so be sure you have proper filtration. Never stare at the sun and never point a telescope or binoculars at the Sun without proper solar filters in place.

RTMC Astronomy Expo 2016 – May 26-30
The west coast's granddaddy of star parties is gearing up for another round of festivities. Make your reservations now to stay overnight or spend the day at Camp Oakes, just east of Big Bear. Attend the numerous presentations, attend a workshop, hang out with friends, stargaze and maybe win a door prize! They're all par for the course at RTMC.

Lonely Speck Meetup at Trona Pinnacles – July 30
Lonely Speck is an excellent website for tips and detailed articles on photographing the night sky with little more than a camera and tripod. Ian Norman, the guy behind the site, is organizing a meet-up for anyone who wants to camp for a night, take photos of the sky, share tips, and see what others do to capture beautiful nighttime landscape photos with the best backdrop ever, the Milky Way.

RAS Outreach Events – Ongoing
Did you know that the Riverside Astronomical Society is extremely active in organizing and staging dozens of outreach events for schools, scouts, and the general public every year? It's true. Check out the latest schedule of outreach events and come out to one of our public events (like those at Dos Lagos Shops in Corona) to view the Moon and planets.

Nightfall Star Party & Imaging Conference 2016 – October 27-30
Everyone knows Nightfall doesn't happen until autumn, and that's not in the first part of the year! But it's mentioned here because you really need to make your reservations NOW! Nightfall is an extremely popular event and hotel rooms and RV spaces fill up quickly.