Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Venus Transit!

Yesterday we experienced a "Twice In A Lifetime" event. I say "Twice" because technically it did happen as recently as 2004. The transit of Venus across the face of the sun happens in pairs that are 8-12 years apart and then will not happen again for another 105-112 years due to the orbit it takes. Since man has been able to observe the sun and the planets this event has only taken place 8 times! It's way more rare then solar eclipses or just about any other astronomical event.
A few weeks back for the annular solar eclipse I really wanted to be somewhere where I could concentrate on the photography and get very precise images. The location we picked was very isolated and in fact we had the spot all alone, just the five of us. For this event I planned to do the same thing and take very precise images at set intervals but at the last minute I decided to flip 180 degrees and go "public" for this event. I knew the local college planetarium would be doing a public viewing so I decided to join them and share the views through the telescope and big lens with the public. With that in mind I headed over to the Community College of Southern Nevada (CCSN) and set up my telescope and cameras for everyone to enjoy. I was able to hook up the camera output to a small HDMI monitor so those with small kids or anyone that has a hard time focusing through an eyepiece could have a good view of the event.
From what I understand we had about 450-500 visitors come out to view the transit.

Families lining up to view the transit.Families lining up to view the transit.
The line at my scope and camera! At times there were 20-30 people waiting to view the monitor. I'm very happy to see all the parents that brought their young kids out to observe this event. the really young kids may not understand what they were seeing but hopefully some of them will still be around to watch it the next time it happens....105 years from now!

Moments before 1st contact.
The solar disc just minutes before first contact.

1st Contact! The planet Venus can be seen on the upper right side of the solar disc just barely silhouetting on the sun's edge.
First Contact! Look at the upper right side of the edge of the disc...around the 1 O'clock position, and you can just start to see Venus as a small "bump".

A few minutes before "second contact" when the entire round silhouette of Venus will be visible.

Venus producing the famous "Black Drop Effect".

The closest shot I have of "Second Contact". I was recording video at the time of second contact so you'll have to see the video further down to get a closer look of the actual moment of second contact.

Venus now well inside the disc of the sun.

About 1 hour into the transit.

2.5 hours into the transit.

3.5 hours into the transit and the sun is getting low on the horizon. Not to mention we are shooting over the roof of a nearby building so the image is getting a bit blurry as we shoot through more funk in the atmosphere.
Minutes later and the sun set behind the building and these final four image were snapped as the sun disappeared.

Finally, I want to share with you a composite I made of 10 separate images showing the progression of the event prior to it disappearing behind the building. The spacing is not precise exactly because I was spending much time showing and sharing the info with the public.

This composite was taken using images captured with the second camera and 840mm lens combo. If you'd like to view all of the images then you can view the entire gallery here.
And here is the link to the short video that captured the event through the scope along with the sounds of the people standing around watching the event.

Just click on the image above and the video window should open up.

I hope everyone enjoys the pics. If you were actually at the event, leave a comment below please and tell me what you enjoyed the most about the day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Prelude to the Venus Transit....

I guess another name for today's blog entry could have been more appropriately titled, The June 4, 2012 Partial Lunar Eclipse.
Tomorrow is the big astronomical event of the year, the Venus transit of the sun. I've mentioned in previous posts about how rare this event is and I'm very much looking forward to observing, photographing and sharing the event with my faithful followers here.
Last night, or to be more correct, early this morning, we had a partial lunar eclipse. For those of you that didn't realize it, anytime there is a total or annular solar eclipse during the new moon, we always have a lunar eclipse either the full moon prior to the solar event or the full moon after the solar event. In the case of this year the lunar eclipse was post solar event.
I set up early in the morning around 2:30am and was able to grab this shot of the full moon.

Although it's hard to see, the penumbral portion of the eclipse had already begun. If you know what to look for you can barely notice a very, very slight darkening of the lower left side of the image. Most people will not see it. There are times when we have a penumbral eclipse and many people cannot even tell it's happening. It's the semi transparent portion of the shadow tha proceeds the moon entering the umbra or solid shadow portion of the earth. To learn more about the mechanics of lunar eclipses, have a read of this Wikipedia entry, it does a very good job of explaining the differences.

As the earth enters the umbra I snapped this shot through the telescope. I really need to pick up the f6.3 focal reducer adapter for the scope so that I can capture the entire disc in a single frame.
The first image above is actually two separate frames stitched together to show the entire surface.

Taken at about the same time as the image above. This shot was made with the 840mm lens/extender combo you are familiar with from previous posts.

Taken at 4:03am local time during maximum eclipse. That's as much as was covered during this eclipse which is why it didn't get nearly the amount of publicity as the recent annular solar eclipse.

These three images were taken as dawn was quickly approaching, the sky starting to lighten up behind me in the east as the moon sets in the west near the very end of the eclipse.

One last capture through the telescope as it sets over the ridge line in the west.

And a few minutes after the moon disappears in the west we are greeted by a beautiful sunrise to the east.

Tomorrow's post will be all about the Venus solar transit so be sure and come back tomorrow night for images from this "last of our lifetime" event.