Fr.: goutte noire
The appearance of a band linking the solar limb to the disk of a transiting planet (Venus or Mercury) near the point of internal tangency. This effect increases the uncertainty in measuring the period from when the planet fully enters the solar disk to when it begins to depart. Historically, the black drop phenomenon limited the accuracy of the determination of the Astronomical Unit and the scale of the Solar System in the 18th and 19th centuries. While there have been many proposed theories over the years, the true cause of the effect was revealed during a transit of Mercury in 1999, which was observed by the NASA's TRACE satellite. Two effects could fully explain the black drop: the inherent blurriness of the image caused by the finite size of the telescope (→ point spread function), and an extreme dimming of the Sun's surface just inside the apparent outer edge (→ limb darkening). See Schneider et al. 2004, Icarus 168, 249.