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Veterans Day Mid-Morning Hike at Mason Mill Park + Rare Solar Transit of the Planet Mercury!

The Basics:
Event Type:Hike
Event Location: NE Atlanta near Clairmont Rd & I-85   Hike: Veterans Day Mid-Morning Hike at Mason Mill Park + Rare Solar Transit of the Planet Mercury!  National Weather Service Forecast
Date(s) & Time:Mon, Nov 11 2019  10:00 am >> Mon, Nov 11 2019 11:45 am
Registration Opens: Fri, Nov 8 2019 9:00 pm
Registration Cut Off: Mon, Nov 11 2019 8:00 am
Event Duration:1 Hours 45 Minutes
Difficulty Rating:D1: Easy
Distance:3 Miles
Trip Leader(s):
Charlie Cottingham
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Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:15
Minimum Group Size:2
Number Registered So Far: 12 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: Yes


Hope you can plan to celebrate Veterans Day by joining us for this mid-morning Hiking + Astronomy event at lovely Mason Mill Park here in NE Atlanta.  We'll gather a few minutes before 10:00 AM just inside the park entrance, in the free parking lot by the stone restroom building and kids' playground.  (See detailed Directions below).  We've carefully chosen the date and time of the event to coincide with a rare "Transit" of Mercury," during which the planet will be orbiting slowly across the solar disc, and can be viewed between 7:35 AM and 1:04 PM as a "round black dot" from here in GAweather permitting. Transits of Mercury are rare and the next one visible from Georgia won't be until 30 years from now - Nov 7th, 2049!   (The Monday AM forecast as of Sun Nov 10th expects about 30% cloud cover.  There likely will be frequent breaks in the clouds, allowing us get good views of the celestial phenomenon.)  I'll bring my special solar-filtered binoculars and eclipse glasses to share with the group and make it safe for each of us to observe the sun and Mercury..

After introductions we'll set up our "AOC observing station" at a nearby picnic table and discuss how to safely use our gear.  If the sky cooperates we'll then enjoy some initial observing of the transit.   We'll choose an appropriate time to hike together to Medlock Park and back (depending on the sky conditions), stopping often to regroup and enjoy the native flora & fauna and other interesting scenery.  We'll pause occasionally to take more looks at Mercury with our "solarized binocs," assuming that the clouds cooperate.  Our total hike distance will be about 3 miles with just one or two steep spots.  We'll target being back at the cars by 11:45 AM.  If you need to "split" early from the group that's OK, but be sure to let me know if and when you do so.  It should be easy to direct you back to the parking lot.  If it's a bit too cloudy to see the transit between 10AM and 11:45, some of us may wish to stick around longer and hope for a clearer sky - up until Mercury exits the solar disc at 1:04 PM.

Bring your well-behaved dog if you like, but please make sure that he or she is leashed and under your control at all times.

MORE about MERCURY TRANSITS:  Cynics may say, “What’s the big deal about transits?” but avid skygazers and astronomers exult in the visual spectacle and geometry of these phenomena.  Since the orbit of Mercury around the sun is inside our own Earth orbit it can occasionally appear precisely in a straight line between us and the sun, thus resulting in a transit. This happens rarely because Mercury’s orbit is tilted with respect to that of the Earth. A similar situation with our moon’s orbital tilt is likewise why total solar eclipses so seldom occur, with the moon’s shadow blocking our view of the sun.  Strangely these transits are only visible from Earth in the months of November and May.  When Mercury transits, it is near its closest possible approach to Earth, and appears through solarized scopes & binocs as an unmistakable small black disc, first appearing to touch the edge of the sun, then moving slowly across it.  In effect this is a "mini-eclipse" that obscures a tiny percentage of the sun's light.
  Ten of us AOCers had good success viewing the last Mercury transit on May 9th, 2016 during a similar "hike + astronomy" event at Mason Mill Park.
  On June 5th, 2012 our AOC Trip Leader team and friends from the Atlanta Astronomy Club treated more than 75 of our members to an even rarer event:  a transit of the planet Venus, viewed together from atop Stone Mountain.  The next Venus transit won't happen until the mid-22nd century! 
  FYI, click this link for the excellent Wikipedia article about Mercury Transits:

ABOUT the PARKS, TRAILS and HIKING OPTIONS:  Mason Mill Park and its 3 adjoining "sister parks" (Medlock, Lullwater and Ira Melton Park) are in DeKalb County near Clairmont Road, Emory University and the VA Hospital  They conveniently interconnect with one another via a network of hiking/biking paths and boardwalks.  The paved South Peachtree Creek Trail is most popular connecting trail in the area, and like the better known Silver Comet Trail was designed and built to the high standards of the "PATH Foundation."  The trail features spectacular raised decks that pass through the forest canopy and overlook the adjoining creeks.  An exciting portion of this trail takes us over the railroad track via a 3-stories-high wooden walkway and deck.  Hikers here are treated to aerial views of the picturesque restored ruins of the historic early-20th-Century Decatur Waterworks.  This high deck is well protected from the glare of city lights and has proven to be a good spot for viewing sunsets, moonrises, the stars & planets, comets, eclipses, meteor showers, etc.
  Lots of spur trails branch from the PATH trail into the surrounding forest and it's always fun to explore a few of them during Mason Mill/ Medlock hikes.  One such spur fords the South Fork of Peachtree Creek via stepping stones and allows optional access to the half-mile white-blazed loop trail around Ira Melton Park.
  Another option (that we sometimes include in hikes of 3 hours or more) is to walk beyond Medlock Park a few blocks through the neighborhood to lovely Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve and do at least a short "wetlands" loop there before heading back (via Medlock Park) to our convenient Mason Mill Park meetup spot.

FOR a COLOR MAP of the SOUTH PEACHTREE CREEK "PATH" TRAIL and how it interconnects Mason Mill & Medlock Park and other DeKalb County-owned green space, click this link:

Required Items to Bring:

• Wear comfortable well-broken-in Athletic Shoes or Hiking Boots and Lightweight Clothing appropriate for the weather.

• For the hike hydrate in advance and carry in your Daypack or Fanny Pack a filled Water Bottle or your "Camelbak" or other hydration system.

Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.

- Don't forget your Camera or SmartPhone!  We expect to have lots of nice Photo-Ops.

- Consider bringing some lightweight Snacks or Picnic Items in your fanny pack or daypack.  We can enjoy these during our Mercury transit session and also at a couple of scenic stops along the hike.

- If you have Trekking Poles, consider bringing and using them - a few spots along our route may be a bit steep.  A simple shoulder-high Hiking Stick works about as well to improve stability and to transfer force to your upper body from your legs and knees.

How to Get There:
Event Directions:

FROM the I-85 CLAIRMONT ROAD EXIT in NE METRO ATLANTA to our MASON MILL PARK Meetup Spot:   (For a zoomable color MAP and satellite view of this spot and its vicinity click on the square blue & green "Event Location" near the top of this article.)

1. From the I-85 "Clairmont Road" Exit (Exit #91) in NE Atlanta take Clairmont Rd southward (toward Decatur) about 2.3 miles to the traffic light at McConnell Drive.  (This is the next light south of the big Clairmont/ North Druid Hills intersection.  If you reach the huge VA Hospital you've gone a couple of blocks too far!)

2. Turn Left onto McConnell Drive, go just 0.1 mile, and turn Right at the stop sign to stay on McConnell. 
(Note the small "Mason Mill" directional sign here.)

3. Then turn Left almost immediately at the
 "Mason Mill Park" entrance sign into the large free parking lot.  We'll gather by the stone Restroom building near that main entrance adjoining the children's playground.

LAT/LON COORDINATES of the Mason Mill Park spot where we'll meet: (You GPS or users may wish to augment my above verbal directions by entering these map coordinates as your destination address.)

* We encourage all members to follow our Etiquette Guidelines while participating in AOC events.

Cost Includes:

Free Event with Free Parking!

Cancellation/Partial Attendance:   Please review the AOC cancellation policy.