Amazing Science

Mercury in transit

The planet Mercury will make a rare trip in front of the sun on November 8 for the first time since 2003 — an event that’s not expected to happen again until 2016. The Mercury transit, as astronomers call it, occurs when the planet passes between the Earth and the sun in a five-hour journey.

It’s a rare occasion: a transit can happen only when Mercury is crossing Earth’s orbital plane at the same time that it catches up to Earth in its orbit around the sun. This happens about a dozen times per century. The transit of a planet across the face of the sun is relatively uncommon: we can only see Mercury and Venus’s transits from Earth because we’re further out in the solar system looking in.

Mercury’s transit will be visible from various places on Earth, including the Americas, Australia and eastern Asia. The passage will not be visible in Africa, Europe or the Middle East.

In order to observe the transit, a telescope with a special filter made for solar viewing is required. Researchers warn observers not to look at the sun without proper eye protection. Some sites like NASA, are carrying webcasts of the transit. — Agencies

Suzuki’s green wheelchair

JAPAN: One of the world’s biggest wheelchair manufacturers, Suzuki has just unveiled a new model that’s more advanced than its automotive output.

The MIO wheelchair uses fuel cell technology to provide power and a far greater range of 25 miles than current electric chairs. A four-litre tank holds the methanol used to power the fuel cell, while a back-up battery provides electricity if the tank runs dry and can also be used to store surplus electricity from the fuel cell.

The chair features armrests that double as safety barriers to prevent its occupant from falling, while the handlebars ha-ve been designed for gre-ater comfort and to give full steering lock with minimal effort. A mesh fabric is used for the seat to give greater comfort and cooling for a user who may spend prolonged periods in the chair. The MIO has been built to asses customer reaction.