Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chasing the Transit of Venus

5:30 a.m., hunting for the sun
The last sliver of the sun disappeared over the mountain across the fjord at a few minutes before 11 p.m. last night. The transit of Venus started a few minutes later. We realized that we were at a rare point in time, where a straight line passed through the sun, Venus, that mountain and us. Perfect! Except for the mountain.

Sunrise came at 3:15 a.m. this morning and the transit continued until 7:15, so Maggie, Anna and I got up at 5:30 a.m. and went up the hill with Indy to a small park where the sun could be visible. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy morning. There were a few small holes in the clouds here and there and on the way up I hoped we would get lucky and be able to see the disk of the sun through one of them. The next time Venus "eclipses" the sun will be in 2117, a rather long wait, so despite the cloudiness we had to try. It is unlikely we will get another chance in our lifetimes to see a little black dot of this particular size.

Trying for an image of the sun despite the clouds
Unfortunately, there were no good holes in the clouds anywhere near the sun. We used the lenses of our binoculars to cast an image of the bright light onto a piece of paper, but all we got was a blob. Maggie thought the experience was like the episode of Big Bang Theory where the guys set up all kinds of equipment on the rooftop of their apartment building to measure the length of time to bounce a laser off the moon. Lots of effort, tiny result.

Instead we came home and found a live video feed online where we could see the transit as it happened with an image much bigger and clearer than we could make ourselves.

So, our outing was not entirely successful, but we still were aware of and felt like a part of the event anyways. We can always try again in 105 years.

Watching the transit live on the computer instead. Venus is the little black dot at the bottom of big circle.

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