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.