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Archive for the ‘Venus Transit 2012’ Category

As the glorious Venus Transit of 2012 recedes into happy memory, Venus rises higher in the predawn sky each morning, even as it becomes more distant from Earth. Soon Jupiter and Venus will be a twin spectacle before sunrise that you won’t want to miss.

8:38 AM CDT June 21, 2012 (13:38 UT)
Angular diameter 51.42 arc seconds
7.8% illumination
Distance from Earth 30,154,150 miles (48,528,401 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
8:57 AM CDT June 12, 2012 (13:57 UT)
Angular diameter 56.46 arc seconds
1.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 27,463,558 miles (44,198,313 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
7:33 PM CDT June 5, 2012 (00:33 UT June 6, 2012)
Angular diameter 57.78 arc seconds
0.0% illumination, transiting the Sun
Distance from Earth 26,836,379 miles (43,188,966 km)
Projection method with 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece
10:50 AM CDT May 16, 2012 (15:50 UT)
Angular diameter 48.03 arc seconds
12.3% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,284,073 miles (51,956,179 km)
10:26 AM CDT May 10, 2012 (15:26 UT)
Angular diameter 43.71 arc seconds
18.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 35,473,212 miles (57,088,600 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
12:41 PM CDT May 3, 2012 (17:41 UT)
Angular diameter 39.11 arc seconds
24.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 39,649,337 miles (63,809,423 km)
18mm eyepiece

7:14 PM CDT April 22, 2012 (00:14 UT 4-23-12)
Angular diameter 33.12 arc seconds
33.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 46,812,338 miles (75,337,236 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow

6:28 PM CDT March 24, 2012 (23:28 UT)
Angular diameter 22.95 arc seconds
52.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 67,571,683 miles (108,746,083 km)

4:10 PM CST February 12, 2012 (22:10 UT)
Angular diameter 16.24 arc seconds
70.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 95,450,953 miles (153,613,419 km)
18mm eyepiece

1:48 PM CST February 8, 2012 (19:48 UT)
Angular diameter 15.82 arc seconds
71.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 98,020,580 miles (157,748,833 km)
18mm eyepiece

2:37 PM CST January 5, 2012 (20:37 UT)
Angular diameter 13.19 arc seconds
81.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 117,572,894 miles (189,215,232 km)
2:21 PM CST November 29, 2011 (20:21 UT)
Angular diameter 11.46 arc seconds
89.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 135,265,885 miles (217,689,541 km)
4:18 PM CST November 20, 2011 (22:18 UT)
Angular diameter 11.13 arc seconds
91.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 139,346,992 miles (227,254,246 km)
12:03 PM CST January 5, 2011 (18:03 UTC)
Angular diameter 25.58 arc seconds
48.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 60,611,164 miles (97,544,214 km)
10:02 AM CST November 27, 2010 (16:02 UTC)
Angular diameter 44.72 arc seconds
20.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 34,669,885 miles (55,795,771 km)
12:40 PM CDT (17:40 UTC), November 5, 2010
Angular diameter 59.94 arc seconds
2.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 25,866,740 miles (41,628,483 km)

Unless otherwise noted, 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece. LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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Whew! Time to unwind now, after a period of less than one month in which we experienced a partial solar eclipse, a partial lunar eclipse, and last but not least, a historic transit of Venus! Even in seasons without such spectacles, in space everything is extraordinary, and Saturn is now convenient for viewing after sunset. The photo above was taken at 11:42 PM CDT June 7, 2012 (4:42 UT June 8, 2012), with the 8″ reflector telescope, 17mm eyepiece, and 2x Barlow (191x magnification).

For those of you who enjoyed seeing Venus shine high and bright in the evening sky in the last few months, especially in March when Jupiter joined it in dazzling conjunction, I have good news: Venus and Jupiter are shortly putting on a repeat performance, and all you have to do to see it is get up before dawn! In the upcoming days and weeks, look in the east before sunrise, and you will see the two planets a little higher in the sky each morning, Jupiter higher up, dimmer than Venus but still quite bright.

Viewed “live” through the telescope, the ultra-thin crescent Venus appears more magically, delicately thin than the first photo suggests, and also looks glistening as well as bright. I am persuaded that we actually see a reflection of the Sun on the clouds of Venus at this phase, like the Sun’s reflection on a quiet lake. If you get the chance to see it through a telescope, don’t miss it:

8:57 AM CDT June 12, 2012 (13:57 UT)
Angular diameter 56.46 arc seconds
1.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 27,463,558 miles (44,198,313 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
7:33 PM CDT June 5, 2012 (00:33 UT June 6, 2012)
Angular diameter 57.78 arc seconds
0.0% illumination, transiting the Sun
Distance from Earth 26,836,379 miles (43,188,966 km)
Projection method with 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece
10:50 AM CDT May 16, 2012 (15:50 UT)
Angular diameter 48.03 arc seconds
12.3% illumination
Distance from Earth 32,284,073 miles (51,956,179 km)
10:26 AM CDT May 10, 2012 (15:26 UT)
Angular diameter 43.71 arc seconds
18.1% illumination
Distance from Earth 35,473,212 miles (57,088,600 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow
12:41 PM CDT May 3, 2012 (17:41 UT)
Angular diameter 39.11 arc seconds
24.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 39,649,337 miles (63,809,423 km)
18mm eyepiece

7:14 PM CDT April 22, 2012 (00:14 UT 4-23-12)
Angular diameter 33.12 arc seconds
33.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 46,812,338 miles (75,337,236 km)
25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow

6:28 PM CDT March 24, 2012 (23:28 UT)
Angular diameter 22.95 arc seconds
52.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 67,571,683 miles (108,746,083 km)

4:10 PM CST February 12, 2012 (22:10 UT)
Angular diameter 16.24 arc seconds
70.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 95,450,953 miles (153,613,419 km)
18mm eyepiece

1:48 PM CST February 8, 2012 (19:48 UT)
Angular diameter 15.82 arc seconds
71.7% illumination
Distance from Earth 98,020,580 miles (157,748,833 km)
18mm eyepiece

2:37 PM CST January 5, 2012 (20:37 UT)
Angular diameter 13.19 arc seconds
81.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 117,572,894 miles (189,215,232 km)
2:21 PM CST November 29, 2011 (20:21 UT)
Angular diameter 11.46 arc seconds
89.5% illumination
Distance from Earth 135,265,885 miles (217,689,541 km)
4:18 PM CST November 20, 2011 (22:18 UT)
Angular diameter 11.13 arc seconds
91.2% illumination
Distance from Earth 139,346,992 miles (227,254,246 km)
12:03 PM CST January 5, 2011 (18:03 UTC)
Angular diameter 25.58 arc seconds
48.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 60,611,164 miles (97,544,214 km)
10:02 AM CST November 27, 2010 (16:02 UTC)
Angular diameter 44.72 arc seconds
20.6% illumination
Distance from Earth 34,669,885 miles (55,795,771 km)
12:40 PM CDT (17:40 UTC), November 5, 2010
Angular diameter 59.94 arc seconds
2.4% illumination
Distance from Earth 25,866,740 miles (41,628,483 km)

Unless otherwise noted, 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece. LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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In 1639 brilliant astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks and his friend William Crabtree were the first two ever to observe a Transit of Venus, which Horrocks described as “a most agreeable spectacle.” A delightful understatement indeed! Only six more Venus transits have occurred since then, and last week, for the one and only time in my life, I had the privilege of viewing the “most agreeable spectacle” of the 2012 Venus Transit. Here’s my story:


Here’s the soon-to-be-transited Sun, a few sunspots evident, at 3:23 PM CDT, June 5, 2012, viewed inside my projection box, a bit of low-tech space exploration technology which consisted of white paperboard taped inside a desk drawer. The equipment used for all these photos is my 60mm refractor telescope, 17mm eyepiece, and trusty LG VX8360 cell phone camera. I had the privilege of leading a Community Education class for the occasion of the transit, attended by eleven eager observers and learners. Some were family and friends who had earlier attended our solar eclipse party, and others were new friends who had signed up for the class. We gathered at the local Middle School at 6:45, and began with fifteen minutes of orientation. After that we switched to “observation party” format, freely moving between the outside observation area and the classroom, where we could watch the NASA EDGE webcast live from Hawaii.

After wrapping up the orientation, we headed out to view the beginning of the transit. As soon as I had the telescope and projection box set up, we could already see a telltale “bite” bitten out of the Sun’s limb. The transit had begun! It began earlier than I thought it would, and in retrospect I see two mistakes I made that cost us the chance to see the very beginning of the transit:

1. I didn’t have the telescope completely set up beforehand, and specifically, I didn’t have something ready to elevate the projection box. After a minute of near-frantic problem-solving, I had the projection box perched on top of an inverted garbage can!
2. I should have checked for the exact local time of first ingress. I hadn’t given it much thought, and assumed that it wouldn’t vary by much more than a couple of minutes globally. But soon, as class members moved between the outdoor viewing area and the Hawaii-based webcast in the classroom, they reported that Hawaii’s view was delayed by a few minutes compared to our view from Minnesota. In fact, if I had bothered to check our local transit times using this user-friendly utility, I would have known that our local first ingress time was 5:04:40, not 5:08 or 5:09 as I had guessed! No matter, nobody seemed disturbed, and in fact the noticeable difference between Hawaii’s time and ours proved to be an interesting learning experience for the whole class, including me. After all, it only makes sense. As Venus moved to the right across the Sun’s face according to our perspective, the Earth as viewed from Venus also was moving to the right, as from Venus’ point of view Earth was at opposition, and was in the midst of retrograde motion. Below, thanks to a great utility called the NASA/JPL Solar System Simulator is the Earth as viewed from Venus at 22:05 UT 6-5-12, the time of first ingress as viewed from Minnesota:


Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

As you can see, Minnesota, in the heart of North America, is about one-half Earth diameter ahead of Hawaii, which resulted in us being almost six minutes ahead of Hawaii in viewing each stage of the transit. Of course, their reward for being “behind” is that they got to see the whole thing, whereas the Sun set in Minnesota while the transit was still happening!

Anyway, without further ado, here are some views of the transit in progress. Some of the earlier photos are a bit pale and diffuse due to a hazy sky, but I’m not complaining. It sure beat overcast skies!!!


5:11, my first photo of the transit in progress.

Though this 5:21 PM photo may not show it, I think I could discern a ring of light around Venus’ circumference at about this time.

Though we missed the First Ingress, we successfully witnessed Second Ingress, which took place during the following series of four photos, all taken during the minute of 5:22 PM local time:


5:25 PM.


Class members viewing the webcast at 5:32 PM.


Here’s what we saw on the webcast at 5:33 PM. Compare this view from Hawaii with the 5:25 PM photo above of our view from Minnesota, and you’ll see that they’re about the same.


At 5:37 PM, Venus had advanced about one Venutian diameter inside the Sun’s limb.


This photo was taken at 5:54 PM, just before we gathered in the classroom to learn more about the transit.


We wrapped up the class at 6:45, but I sent them home with their new eclipse shades, reminding them that the transit could still be seen for over two hours, and the webcast would continue until midnight. This photo was taken at 6:50 PM, the last photo before heading home.


After returning home I set up the telescope and projection box on the deck, and shared the experience of the transit with my wife. Here’s a small but clear photo taken at 7:18 PM. By the way, if you’re wondering why the Sun looks bigger in some pics than others, it’s because photographing a projection is a subjective experience, depending both on the eyepiece-screen distance as well as the screen-camera distance. It’s not like aiming the camera into the eyepiece, which always gives you the same magnification for the same telescope/eyepiece combination.

7:20 PM.


7:30 PM.


My last photo of the transit, as the Sun and Venus began to dip behind the big tree in the northwest part of the backyard. 7:33 PM.


8:14 PM, the transit still in progress, but it was time for my wife and me to enjoy an evening walk with our venerable dog Pluto. Of course, I took a pair of eclipse shades along to take a look from time to time! My last glimpse of the transit in progress was about 8:30 PM, the time of deepest transit. Indeed, a most agreeable spectacle!

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The planet Venus, silhouetted against the Sun, during the 2012 Transit of Venus. 7:20 PM CDT June 5, 2012 (00:20 UT June 6, 2012), projected onto a paperboard screen with a 60mm refractor telescope and 17mm eyepiece, photographed with an LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge. This is but one small document of this truly momentous celestial event which I was privileged to witness and which I will never see again.

I’ll post a more detailed report as time allows, but one thing I’d like to share right now is that the simple, lowly projection method was even more effective than this photo might suggest. When the sky was clearest (we had some thin haze at first, but not enough to block our view, thank God), the crisp disk of Venus didn’t just look like a circle cut out of the Sun, but really looked like it was a separate object suspended in front of the Sun!

One more thing I’ll tell you right now: I’m truly looking forward to the Mercury transits of May 9, 2016 and November 11, 2019!

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UPDATE: If you come across this post looking for amateur photos and accounts of the 2012 Venus transit, please check out the one photo I’ve posted so far HERE, and come back again, as I intend to post a more detailed report in the near future.


No, this isn’t Venus, just a very humble photo of the waning gibbous Moon through hazy clouds, back to its normal self exactly one day after the partial lunar eclipse, and 14 minutes after sunrise. 5:46 AM CDT June 5, 2012 (10:46 UT), 60mm refractor telescope with 25mm eyepiece and (you guessed it) LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

The day has come! I hope everyone can experience today’s historic Venus Transit as it happens just a few hours from now. It is a beautiful sunny day here in Alexandria, Minnesota, USA, where I will be leading a community education class for the occasion.

Here’s the link to the NASA Edge webcast of the Venus transit:

http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/webcasts/nasaedge/

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As with the December 10, 2011 Lunar Eclipse, the Partial Lunar Eclipse of June 4, 2012 was still in progress at the time of moonset here, but the weather cooperated beautifully, so here’s a photorecord of the event:


Before heading to the neighborhood park with the small refractor, I managed to get in a few shots with the 8″ reflector telescope and 25mm eyepiece (65x magnification), including this one at 4:10 AM CDT (9:10 UT 6-4-12).

At this time the Moon was already partially in the penumbra of the Earth’s shadow, but I couldn’t tell. In my experience there’s little if any visible change during the penumbral stage.

Most of the following photos are with the 60mm refractor and 25mm eyepiece (28x magnification).


4:50 AM, with noticeable darkening on the Moon’s left limb.


4:59 AM, the umbra becoming evident.


5:01 AM.


5:03 AM.


5:04 AM.


At 5:07 AM, a first for me, and one of those unplannable things that only happen “once in a blue moon.” I captured a distant jet transiting the Moon’s face, and didn’t even realize it until I saw the picture!


5:08 AM, the Moon sinking very close to the southwestern horizon.


Still 5:10 AM, looking northeast towards dawn, a pelican serenely crosses the lake.


5:12 AM.


5:15 AM, with 7×35 binoculars.


5:15 AM.


At 5:22 AM, 42 minutes before the time of greatest eclipse, the Moon is about to set.


At 5:27 AM, ducks and ducklings are going about their morning’s business.

All with LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

Next stop: The Historic Venus Transit of 2012, only a day away!

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Many amazing things happening in the skies these days. Besides the Transit of Venus, now only two days away, there’s a partial lunar eclipse tomorrow on June 4, 2012, which for us in the USA’s Central Time Zone occurs just about at sunrise, but we hope to observe part of it before the Moon sets, and if you’re west of us (for example, in a Pacific state such as Oregon), you will have an even better view of it than we will.

Here is the Moon this past week on May 28/29, only a few hours after the First Quarter Phase:


7:27 PM CDT 5-28-12 (00:27 UT 5-29-12), 25mm eyepiece (magnification 65x)


11:26 PM CDT 5-28-12 (4:26 UT 5-29-12), 25mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow (magnification 130x)
The northern end of the Moon, with sunrise just reaching the west rim of Plato, and the lunar Alpine Valley showing up quite well.


11:31 PM CDT 5-28-12 (4:31 UT 5-29-12), 17mm eyepiece with 2x Barlow (magnification 191x)
An interesting feature called the Straight Wall shows up well in the left center of this photo, which is centered in the south central portion of the Moon’s disk. The Straight Wall is about 80 miles or 130 kilometers long.

8″ f8 homebuilt reflector telescope with LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

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