Mercury on the Face of the Sun: 11/11/19

Image of Mercury in transit across the Sun in 2016, by Elijah Matthews via - flipped vertically to emphasize the silhouette of Mercury instead of the sunspot group also present.
Photo credit: Elijah Matthews via Image has been flipped vertically.

On November 11, tiny planet Mercury will cross between Earth and the Sun. Observers fortunate enough to be beneath clear skies on the sunward side of the Earth when this happens can hope to view the celestial conjunction, officially known as a transit. Transits of Mercury occur about a dozen times per century. The most recent was in 2016, and after this one, it won’t happen again for 13 years!

Mercury is quite small, so eclipse glasses will probably not be sufficient to see it. Properly configured solar binoculars, or ideally a high magnification solar telescope, will be needed. Always use caution when observing the Sun!

Weather permitting, the Maryland Space Grant Observatory will train our telescopes to follow the transit from approximately 9:00 a.m. — 1:00 p.m. EST. Check our Observatory page that day for confirmation, and pay us a visit if you can! With luck we’ll see something much like the image shown above.

For more information about the 11/11/2019 Mercury transit, check out this page from NASA JPL or this very detailed page at

Summer Internship Proposals

MDSGC invites proposals to support summer internships and student research projects at Maryland institutions. Prospective mentors (typically, faculty at educational institutions) who have not previously applied for MDSGC funds are especially encouraged to apply.

Projects may be in any STEM area with relevance to NASA’s missions or future workforce needs. Preference will be given to proposals with strong NASA connections, including collaboration with NASA scientists or engineers, research associated with past, present or future NASA missions, and general aerospace or space science relevance. A typical proposal will request support for 1-2 students. This opportunity is primarily intended for undergraduate level students, but proposals to support high-school or graduate interns, or a larger cohort of students, may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

For priority consideration for the upcoming summer, proposals must be submitted to no later than mid-January; the first awards are issued in early February. Late proposals will be considered on a rolling basis subject to availability of funding.

Rules and restrictions:

  • Students receiving direct funding through this program must be U.S. citizens.
  • Students supported through this program will be required to:
    • Present their work at the MDSGC symposium in late July/early August in Baltimore;
    • Complete an exit survey at the end of the project;
    • Agree to participate in MDSGC longitudinal tracking.
  • Depending on oversubscription rate and funding constraints, MDSGC may limit awards to no more than 2 students per institution.

Required proposal elements:

  1. Mentor qualifications — Brief description of professional qualifications and past mentorship experience.
  2. Project description — No more than one page about each project and its relevance to NASA.
  3. Student recruitment plan — Briefly describe how students will be recruited; if specific students have already been identified, briefly describe how they were recruited and their qualifications. We especially encourage proposals with recruitment targeted at women and members of underrepresented minorities.
  4. Student learning goals and timeline — Examples: programming languages, analysis techniques, specialized topical knowledge, intermediate milestones in project completion.
  5. Mentoring plan/evaluation — How often student and primary mentor will meet; peer mentoring/group participation; what feedback will be provided to the student. Criteria for overall project and student success.
  6. Deliverables/expected results — Include plan for presenting results and/or incorporating into publications.
  7. Budget — Preference will be given to proposals that incorporate significant non-federal match (university, state, corporate, or private funds), including in-kind contributions (e.g., mentor’s contributed time), and for which MDSGC funds are used primarily to support student stipends. Up to $500 may be budgeted, per intern, for materials (if needed; please describe). Please see NASA internship stipend guidelines in the table below. Students supported through this program will also be eligible to apply to MDSGC for travel support to present their work at a meeting within the following calendar year. Funds for such travel may but need not be built into the proposal budget. 

NASA Internship Stipend Levels (effective Fall 2018)
Fall and Spring (16 weeks)
Full-time graduate: $14,400
Full-time undergrad: $11,680
Summer (10 weeks)
Full-time graduate: $9,000
Full-time undergrad: $7,300

Please contact MDSGC Deputy Director Matt Collinge with any questions.

Microscopes and Telescopes – Oct. 18

Flyer for MDSGC/CMMS October 18th event

We are pleased to announce a special event at the Observatory on Friday, October 18th! In partnership with the Chesapeake Microscopy & Microanalysis Society, MDSGC will host a public lecture, “Meteorites – from Microscopes to Telescopes” by Emma Bullock. The event will also feature microscopy demonstrations and astronomical observing, weather permitting. See the event flyer for more details (click on image above).

Even if you’ve missed the chance to register, you can still join us for the demonstrations and observing starting around 7:30 p.m.!