1012 Venus Transit

by Jim Fitch

The 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 equipment.

 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.

Tena’s Picture in H-alpha                                                                Setting sun against distant mesa. Tena’s again.


White light photo by me.                                                                         Getting set up at the cul-de-sac.


 Frank checking focus.                                                                              Pearre showing the transit to the office workers.    


 Tena cooling off.                                                                                                Gene and me catching the last rays.