NOTE: NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN. YOU CAN NOT VIEW THE SUN WITHOUT SPECIAL FILTERS.
Today was a monumental day in astronomy history. Venus crossed our Sun during the daylight hours and I was able to view it through telescopes, binoculars, and even my camera lens utilizing special filters. The local astronomy club set up their telescopes in a bank parking lot, complete with filters so I went over there (camera in tow) and took pictures with both my iPhone and my SLR digital camera. The image I have posted here was taken through a telescope with a filter.
Since not everyone had the chance to view this monumental event due either to timezone or weather, I thought I would post about my experience.
Nothing gets a bunch of science geeks together like an astronomical event. The local astronomy club set up a half dozen telescopes with filters and invited the public to come and see the transit. Either it wasn’t well advertised, or we don’t have as many science geeks in the area as I expected. I thought there would be long lines, but there were only small crowds. I had time to talk to the telescope owners, take pictures, and view the transit from different telescopes. One of them had it set up so that the image was projected onto a piece of paper. Another had it set up with a webcam, projecting it onto a computer screen in real time. He also had a special telescope camera setup to take photographs every 30 seconds. There was a young lady set up with her telescope and a hand-made filter using the appropriate filter material. Another person had a pair of binoculars with the filter taped over the lenses. (Although this is not recommended by professionals.) There were even a few handheld viewfinders. The last of which I used to take a shot through my own camera. DH said he could see Venus through the handheld one, but I really had trouble. Imagine looking at a tiny dot (circled above) on top of a small dot that is the sun. Once you use the filter to block out the dangerous light, the Sun is only about the size of the moon, which is why we have solar eclipses.
The smaller smudges are not due to a dirty lens. They are sunspots. Sunspots occur in regions of high magnetic fields that creates a slighter cooler area (although still very hot!) so these areas appear dark. I am fortunate to live in the central time zone where we had about 3-3.5hrs of sunlight. Those who live west of me are even more fortunate, as they will see the beginning and middle of the transit. Hawaii and Asia should have great views and early risers in Europe will get to see the end of it. It’s a much slower transit than the 2006 Mercury transit. The Mercury transit will be repeated in 2016.
As I mentioned, the original image I captured was through a telescope. Specifically, a reflecting telescope, which means the image is upside down and backwards. So when I edited this image, I flipped it both directions so you could see it as if you looked through the special filter with your eyes.
I hope some of you were able to see the Venus transit for yourself, or at least watch NASA’s video stream from Hawaii. I’m sure there will be many images on the internet for you to enjoy.
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