Friday, June 8, 2012

2012 Transit of Venus

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that this past Tuesday Venus transited across the face of the Sun...see the previous few posts.  While it has only been three days, it feels like I am the last person on Earth to get my pictures posted.  I have seen some incredible images taken by observers around the world, and  there is no way that my images can compare.  Of course, I just purchased my camera and began my foray into the world of astrophotography last week!

Click to enlarge
We hosted about 30 individuals at a special Transit program at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter and we simultaneously provided a live web stream of the Transit.  The stream was available on our You Tube channel and our website.  While we do not yet have numbers directly from You Tube, we had over 30,000  folks check out the stream via our website!  Despite having to attend to our guests and the live stream, I did manage to run over to my TEC 140 and snap some pictures every now and then.  I took a few hundred images and ended up with just a handful of decent ones.  At left is a nice image of the Sun early in the day that I took to make sure everything was set and working.

It's funny how much my inexperience came into play.  Taking a sharp image of the Sun as above, about 90 minutes after sunrise while leisurely drinking a cup of coffee is relatively easy.  There is hardly any breeze and the atmosphere is quite stable.  Life is good.  Fast forward to the Transit- While minding my real responsibilities and trying to entertain guest, capturing the Transit photos took on a life of its own.  In addition to being rushed and distracted, the atmosphere at 3 PM is anything but calm as it is the hottest part of the day here in Tucson.  In addition to the atmospheric instability, I was set up on the summit ridge of Mt. Lemmon and experiencing fairly continuous breezes and gusts of wind in the 10-12 mph range.  I had also installed a foam shield on my telescope to keep my camera shaded and did not realize but the shield was acting like a sail keeping the telescope shaking subtly all the time.  Of course, I also forgot to engage the mirror lock up function on the camera, although I suspect with the wind it would not have mattered.  Finally, I had never practiced at sunset and had no idea about useful shutter speeds or ISO settings as the light from the Sun was being extinguished.  All in all, given my inexperience and the atmospheric challenges I am quite happy with the few usable images I ended up with.

Click on images to enlarge them:

First Contact (upper right)
in-progress now

My favorite image, Second Contact!

The Transit continues...the images get darker as the Sun was moving toward the horizon.  Click the images to enlarge:

And of course, the obligatory shot of the Venus transiting the setting Sun, terribly distorted by the atmosphere!

I think it appropriate to close this post, not with my words, but with words from the journal of Jerimiah Horrox, who first predicted and observed the Transit of Venus in 1693.  In describing his colleagues experience he wrote:

"he eagerly betook himself to his observations, and happily saw the most agreeable of all sights, Venus just entered upon the Sun.  He was so ravished with this most pleasing contemplation, that he stood for some time viewing it leisurely, as it were; and, from an excess of joy, could scarce prevail upon himself to trust his won senses.  For we astronomers have a certain womanish disposition, distractedly delighted with the light and trifling circumstances, which hardly make the least impression upon the rest of mankind...

...For what youth, such as we are, would not fondly admire Venus in conjunction with the Sun, what youth would not dwell with rapture upon the fair and beautiful face of a lady, whose charms derive an additional grace from her fortune?"

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alan

    Great images and very nice report! I believe, a week lead time was sufficient for you to practice ;-)