(BIVN) – An earthquake shook Hawaiʻi Island on Monday morning, and caused a brief disruption in a Transit of Mercury viewing party in Waimea that was occurring at the time.
“We were watching the mainland observatories doing their live feeds and then we had a really big earthquake,” said W.M. Keck Observatory outreach coordinator Shelly Pelfrey. “The room shook a lot and everyone kind of stood still, and then after the second one we evacuated everybody from the building for safety sake.”
“We all sat outside for a bit to take in the beautiful morning air and got the all-clear to come back in the building and started watching again,” Pelfrey said.
The Magnitude 4.9 earthquake was centered about 19 miles below the east slope of Mauna Kea in the district of Hāmākua, scientists say.
W.M. Keck Observatory is one of the 12 telescope facilities atop Mauna Kea. However, Keck’s headquarters – where Monday morning’s transit viewing party was held – is located far below the summit, in the town of Waimea.
The Transit of Mercury, the celestial event in which Mercury crosses the solar disk as it passes directly between Earth and the Sun, occurs only about 13 or 14 times per century. The next Transit of Mercury will occur on November 13, 2032.
Monday’s earthquake did not coincide with any significant changes in activity on Kīlauea or Mauna Loa Volcanoes, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said. The event was likely “due to bending of the oceanic plate from the weight of the volcanoes in the Hawaiian Island chain, a common source for earthquakes in this area,” the scientists said.