Summer Solar Viewings

NOTE: The viewing location for the August 2 and August 21 sessions has changed to the grassy area outside of the SSDE Student Entrance doors.

Our hydrogen-alpha solar telescope.

We have scheduled several solar viewing sessions for the summer. We’ll view the Sun’s chromosphere with our hydrogen-alpha (red light) solar telescope and we may also set up another telescope to do some viewing of the photosphere in white light. These viewings will go ahead so long as the sky is not clouded over and we can see the Sun. (This post will be updated in the event of weather-related cancellations).

The scheduled viewing dates are:
Tuesday July 4, 12:00-1:00pm
Wednesday July 19, 3:00-4:00pm
Wednesday, August 2, 1:00-2:00pm
Monday, August 21, 2:30-5:00pm: Special Partial Solar Eclipse session!
The solar viewing sessions will be held outside the entrance to the SSDE building (building #30 on the campus map). (NOTE: The first two sessions were scheduled for the green roof, but the location has changed for subsequent viewings).

Solar viewing sessions will take place near the entrance to the SSDE building. Parking is available in the MacLauchlan Arena lot.

The solar viewings will take place in the grassy areas outside of the entrance to the SSDE building.

Viewing of Transit of Mercury on May 9 – UPDATED

UPDATE #3 (11:30AM on Mon, May 9)

Still heavy cloud cover so viewing starting at noon is not likely. Telescope will be set up, but it may not be possible to see the Sun until near 1pm or even later. It’s hard to predict, so if you start seeing lots of sunny breaks, that means there’s a chance of viewing the transit. Keep an eye on the Twitter feed on the sidebar of this webpage – I’ll post more regular updates there.

UPDATE #2 (morning of Mon, May 9)

The viewing is still tentatively on for 12:00-1:30PM, with the possibility of some clouds getting in the way. The forecast says that the sky will be clearing around noon, so I will set up the telescope to start the viewing and depending on how the clouds move through the sky, there may be periods where we have to wait for a clear view of the Sun.

UPDATE (morning of Sun, May 8)

The current forecast for the transit viewing time is partially cloudy, but it looks like it’ll be clearing up shortly after that time (the area highlighted in red on the screen-captured chart from Clear Dark Sky below).Clear Sky Prediction for TransitA successful viewing is going to depend on where in the sky those clouds are – if they’re blocking the Sun, we can’t view it – so I can’t say for certain that the viewing won’t go ahead at noon on Monday. All I can say is that if the viewing is going to be shifted from the scheduled time, it will be shifted to a bit later in the afternoon (the transit ends at 3:40 PM). Updates will continue to be posted here and on @UPEIAstronomy on Twitter.


Mercury’s orbital path will soon take it in front of the Sun (from our perspective here on Earth) in what is called a “transit”. It will look like a little black dot moving across the Sun’s surface (see image below or an animation here). This is very much like an eclipse, it’s just that Mercury is too far away and too small to block out our view of the Sun entirely like the Moon does during a solar eclipse.

The last transit of Mercury on May 4, 2006. Mercury is the little black dot in the lower middle of the Sun.
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons (

Since Mercury will appear so small against the Sun’s surface, we will use our solar telescope to view the transit. We’ll have a public viewing of the transit on Monday, May 9, tentatively from 12:00-1:30 PM (so that people can come during their lunch breaks). If it looks like clouds will interfere with the lunch-time viewing, then it may be shifted to the morning (as early as 9:00 AM) or the afternoon (as late as 3:30 PM), whenever the sky is clear enough to see the Sun. This post will be updated nearer to the date of the transit with more precise times. The viewing location will be in a grassy area near the University Avenue entrance to campus, as indicated on the map below.

The viewing location will be near the University Avenue entrance to campus, somewhere in the grassy area between the W.A. Murphy Student Centre (building #4) and Kelly Memorial Building (building #11). Visitor parking is available nearby in the lots labelled "VP".

The viewing location will be near the University Avenue entrance to campus, somewhere in the grassy area between the W.A. Murphy Student Centre (building #4) and Kelly Memorial Building (building #11). Visitor parking is available nearby in the lots labelled “VP”.

If you can’t attend the public viewing (or if it’s cloudy here on PEI), you can watch the transit online courtesy of Slooh (beginning at 8:00 AM Atlantic time). Whatever you do: don’t look at the Sun without proper protective equipment for solar viewing. Sunglasses are not enough; your eyes will be damaged!

April Public Viewings

After a long winter of little success with telescope viewing plans, we finally have some public viewings scheduled this month.

We have to hold off on nighttime viewings during the university examination period (as classrooms are booked up for exams and students need quiet in the buildings while they’re writing), so we’re trying to get in a nighttime viewing before exams start on April 8 and then we’ll have a solar viewing later in the month. As always, these events are weather dependent, so for any updates on whether a viewing is going ahead, check here.

  • Nighttime telescope viewing: Wednesday, April 6 from 8:30 to 10:00 p.m.
    • Cloud-date: Thursday, April 7
    • Meet in room 417 of Memorial Hall (location of building and information on parking can be found here)
    • We’ll view Jupiter since it’s prominent in the sky right now, and perhaps some other interesting objects if the weather cooperates.
  • Daytime telescope viewing: Saturday, April 16, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (times may be adjusted if there is intermittent cloud)