Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Transit of Venus 2012

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to see the second transit of Venus this century and the last one for 105 years. This page has my photos from the 2004 transit. Several days ago, looking at the long-term weather forecast, I didn't think I'd be able to see anything. It looked like the entire Northeast was going to be enveloped in rain and clouds for a week. I had wanted to travel to Hawaii to see the transit and when it became clear that that wasn't going to happen I thought about traveling to the West Coast. However, financial circumstances would not allow for a trip of this nature. I did manage to buy a small telescope specifically for the transit. Neither of the telescopes I had had a long enough focal length to get a good view of Venus as it moved cross the face of the sun. I wound up getting an Orion Apex 127mm Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope and made a custom solar filter with BAADER AstroSolar™ Safety Film.
As the transit approached, I was glued to the weather forecasts trying to see if a break in the clouds might occur someplace close by. Yesterday morning started out gray and cloudy in the Albany area, however, it did seem that to the Northwest there might be some clearing. I decided to try and drive to a location where it might be a little bit more likely to see the sun. I had just been reading about Guillaume Le Gentil, a French astronomer who "spent eight years travelling in an attempt to observe ... the transits (in the 1700's). His unsuccessful journey led to him losing his wife and possessions and being declared dead."
I was a lot more fortunate, I wound up driving to Oswego NY and found clear skies on the shores of Lake Ontario at the SUNY Oswego campus where I'd spent one semester as a freshman in 1978. I met a nice student named Joe who was also down at the lake for the transit and he helped me carry my equipment down to the water's edge. Even though it was very cloudy elsewhere in New York, over the lake it was perfectly clear. I was able to set up the telescope and get everything ready before the transit started. I wound up confusing the location where Venus would first touch the sun but as soon as a little bit of it became visible I was able to get some nice shots.

My setup:

I decided I would head home and try and catch the sun as it set along the highway. It was a bit of a risk as I knew it was cloudy along the drive and there was no guarantee that I would be able to stop and set up my tripod in order to catch the sunset. I kept one eye on my side view mirror as I was driving home and was lucky enough to hit a Thruway rest stop at just the right time with a view of the sunset. I didn't have very long but was able to catch a few shots and a short movie. For the sunset shots I didn't set up the telescope but used my standard 100-400 Canon lens. All the shots of the transit were taken with my Canon T3i.

Here are the locations that the shots were taken:
SUNY Oswego lake shore: 43.455534, -76.544658
Oneida Travel Plaza: 43.12552, -75.41611