1012 Venus Transit
by Jim FitchThe goal was to see the transit
of Venus. The problem was the weather. It seemed the whole high plains was
under a low pressure system that was just not moving. The satellite loops showed eastern New Mexico
to be under cloud-cover as well. The solution appeared to be traveling to
western New Mexico. Anywhere west of Albuquerque looked to be a pretty sure
bet. Grants turned out to be a winner.
Tena and I left the house shortly
after 8:00am. That put us in Grants about 1:00pm. We found two places to set
up. One was at the New Mexico Visitors Center just south of town, where a public observing session was
planned. The problem was a poor western horizon. The other was on a cul-de-sac.
It had a great western horizon, but I was not sure how to get permission to use
it. I stopped by the police station and got their blessing.
We waited at the visitor center
for Frank and Pearre to arrive. After showing them the options we agreed to use
the cul-de-sac. A real nail biter during set up was whether Gene would make it
before first contact. He did show up with about 30 minutes to setup his
As 4:05 DMT approached we were
all glued to eyepieces and computer monitors. Then the smooth tight radius of
venus contacted the Sun’s limb. First contact!
We noticed several things between
first and second contact:The silhouette was visible for some time in h-alpha
before it could be seen in white light, The planet’s disk was larger than we
expected, There was a small prom near ingress, We could see a faint light ring
around un-silhouetted portion of the planet as it moved toward second contact
both in white light and H-alpha.
As second contact approached we
could see the teardrop as the shadow appeared to stretch and then be connected
by a dark thread to the inky blackness surrounding the sun. And then it
disconnected itself from space and was fully inside the solar disk. A perfectly
round totally black disk on the sun.
We had plenty of time to watch
and experiment with different filters and eyepieces over the next several
hours. The sun was active and had many h-alpha features and sun spots to
observe. We had a few visitors from a nearby office. Pearre got them to let us
use their bathroom in exchange for views through our telescopes. One of them
even brought her granddaughter back
later for a look.
The event ended with the sun
setting on a distant mesa, silhouetting the trees. It was quite a sight
watching Venus set through the trees as the sun did the same.
Frank and Gene should have some
pictures. I’m posting some of Tena’s.
Picture in H-alpha
Setting sun against distant mesa.
light photo by me.
Getting set up at the cul-de-sac.
Pearre showing the transit to the
Gene and me catching the last