View of Mercury's transit thrills many

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 08 May 2003


PENANG: Four-year-old astronomy enthusiast Jeshaiah Khor joined observers around the world yesterday in viewing the rare transit of the planet Mercury across the sun’s disc. 

The youngest member of the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Astronomy Club even brought along his family’s telescope to view the phenomenon that occurs only 13 times in a century. 

From 1.12pm to 6.31pm, the planet closest to the sun, seen only as a tiny black spot through the telescope, moved across the upper part of the sun’s disc and could be viewed from Europe, Africa and Asia. 

Observers gathered under the hot sun outside USM’s Museum and Gallery included hundreds of students from several secondary schools. 

After everyone had taken a peek through the telescopes, some of which were brought by enthusiasts, Jeshaiah said disappointedly that he could not locate Mercury. 

“My daddy told me it is up there but I cannot see it. I can only see sunspots,” said Jeshaiah, whose favourite planet is Earth as “it has water, life and plants.” 

The nursery pupil – who likes astronomy because he can learn about “pulsars, which are fast spinning neutron stars” – said he wanted to be an astronaut so that he could “explore other planets to find intelligent life.” 

ASTRONOMY FANS: Jeshaiah (wearing cap) helping Khor to set up the telescope while Maksalmina Zainuddin, 34, and his sons Muhammad Muzzammil, nine, and Muhammad Muhaimin, three, look on.

His father H.T. Khor, 35, said he and his wife knew nothing about astronomy and had to learn from Jeshaiah, who had progressed to reading technical books on the subject. 

USM Astronomy Club adviser Dr Chong Hon Yew said that observers in places like Australia could only view the beginning of the transit while those in North America could only see the end of it. 

“Malaysians are lucky as the whole transit is visible from here.” 

The next transits will occur on Nov 8, 2006, May 9, 2016 and Nov 11, 2019. 

In Petaling Jaya, passers-by in Taman Jaya had a glimpse of the phenomenon as Starfinder Astronomy Society had set up three telescopes to observe the event. 

Society vice-president Pang Kip Pin said the phenomenon occurred about once every three to four years but was rarely observable locally. 

“The next time you will get to see this here is after another 34 years,” he said. 

Pang said the society holds sky observations on a regular basis. The next one will be held at SRJK (C) Desa Jaya, Kepong, tomorrow. 

For details, call Pang at 03-6275 8158 or Bobby at 03-8996 3378. 

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