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Archive for June, 2012

Well, I really thought we were doomed to watching the historic transit of Venus – last one for 105 years – on the web.

I had been ready to drive any where in the Northeast to see it, but the whole Northeast was socked in tight. I saw some hope in the few hours before it when this cloud pattern appeared.

This was the local cloud pattern about an hour before the transit was slated to start.

That gave me a slight ray of hope, but half an hour before it was to start I went outside and we were 100% overcast, so I settled down to watching the web cast from NASA, though the car was loaded with scopes for a quick trip to Gooseberry should things improve. The web cast  was slated to start at 5:45pm EDT.  I picked it up and we slowly moved towards the start of the transit a few minutes after 6. Right about  6 I decided to check on the weather satellite once more and darned if it didn’t show a hole over us – something I would have seen if I had looked out! Bren and I rushed out and I set up the TV85 and little Ha solar scope on a dual mount at the end of the driveway, unpacking it from the car. ( I had been planning to go to Gooseberry.) I hastily sent out an email telling folks I would be observing here.

And we did! Bren and I got a wonderful view right at the start of the transit and off and on for the next 45 minutes. I also had put one of the cheap solar filters I had bought for binoculars over the Rebel’s 300mm lens and I took several shots with it. What I got wasn’t anything to write home about, but hell, it was a picture and pretty much captured what we had seen. What struck us both was the size of Venus – larger than expected – the crispness of the little dot, and the blackness of it – much blacker than the array of sunspots easily visible below it.

This one was taken at 6:22:38 pm EDT using the 300mm – ISO 200, shutter speed 100 F5.6.

This second shot was taken at 6:27:13 pm EDT at ISO 200, 1/300th second and F5.6. I took many shots between these two trying different shutter speed and tweeking the focus because I could not be sure when I had a sharp image.

Karen Davis came over with Mason from next door and they both got a good look at the event.  Then some guy came by in a car, saw us, and stopped. He was using apiece of smoked glass that he seemed to have confidence in and said he could see it with the naked eye. Judy Beavan showed up as well, the only one on my email list besides Karen. And a little later another newcomer – Susan Czernicka. Susan wrote me immediately upon getting home:

I’m your excited neighbor from 1414 down the road who is feeling fortunate beyond words to have happened upon you out on the road.  I can’t thank you enough for enabling me to see the the transit.  Please add me to your email list.

So all in all, it was a nice event.  John Nanson saw it through breaks in the clouds from Oregon, and Dom and Daphne got great views – again through holes – with telescopes at the Sydney Observatory. Checked in on some of the Web coverage from time to time as well. Here’s a typical screen shot.

Meanwhile, real science was done during this transit by observing light reflected from the Moon and getting a reading on that which will help with studying extra-solar planets. Plans are being made for similar observations of the transit as seen from Jupiter and from Saturn later this year when the alignment for those planets is correct.  For details, see this article. 

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