Old Scope and the 2012 Transit of Venus   1 comment

The 2004 solar transit of Venus pretty much passed me by. The job I had at the time left no opportunity to do more than take a short walk across campus and join the crowd gathered outside the Flandrau Science Center. It wasn’t an event, it was a glimpse, and left little impression on me.

The 2012 transit of Venus, the last for more than one hundred years took place this past Tuesday, and since I am currently between jobs I took full advantage of my freedom to observe the event from the start. I set up the Old Scope with a home-made white light solar filter (Baader film, if you’re interested), the whole thing perched on a light-weight equatorial mount set out on the back porch. A foam board shield attached to the telescope shaded my face at the eyepiece, and a carefully propped umbrella protected the mount and my legs. None of this changed the fact that it was early June, in Tucson (Arizona), which is to say that shade or no shade, it was damned hot. The porch thermometer read somewhere over 100°F (about 38°C) in the shade. I wasn’t in the shade, except for that provided by my Makeshift Solar Observatory. The air around me was, to put it mildly, toasty.

I hide in the shade of the porch until a few minutes before first contact, then braved the sun and hot breezes and perched myself on the observing chair. I put an 8mm TMB planetary eyepiece in the diagonal, focused the Sun as well as could be that time of day (rather shimmery image at times) and was immediately impressed by the sunspots sprinkled across the face of old Sol. I checked my watch and was glad to see things were about to start, as I was already wilting in the heat.

Not long after I forgot the weather for a while. An ever-so-shallow notch had appeared in the limb of the sun. First contact. As I watched it very slowly, but steadily, became deeper and rounder, until the shape of a sphere was clearly suggested. I drank water. I poured water (carefully) over my head, and I kept watching. The suggestion of a sphere became stronger as the black spot began to curve back on itself. Eventually a small black bead was visible, not quite detached from the black beyond the white limb of the Sun. It seemed to hang there, tugging gently on that blackness, then suddenly the connection was broken and there was a sliver of white around that side of the bead. There was Venus, and second contact was now a recent memory. I watched, amazed, as the planet ever so slowly made its way across the face of the Sun.

From that point my observations were intermittent. The heat took its toll. I went inside, sat in front of a fan, and absorbed about a quart of iced tea. When I felt refreshed, I went back out and watched some more. Back and forth, iced tea and a fan, and the transit of Venus, until the Sun had set into the neighbor’s trees and was lost to me. I dismantled the Makeshift Solar Observatory and called it quits. I was thoroughly satisfied by the experience. I was also well-done.

A shower, then, and something else cold to drink, though not iced tea this time.

Posted June 7, 2012 by underdesertstars in Amateur Astronomy

One response to “Old Scope and the 2012 Transit of Venus

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  1. I too missed the 2004 transit. This time I feel I did it right, nothing like seeing it yourself.

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