Venus Transit


Launched: June 05, 2012

The Venus Transit is when the planet Venus passes between the Earth and the sun. It's a rare occurrence, and it'll be more than 100 years before it happens again. It's not an eclipse, in that Venus is so much further from the Earth than the Moon is. This transit took over six hours, but my camera battery lasted only for four.

It was very windy at the park, and the camera was at full optical and almost full digital zoom. Consequently there was more vibration and thus blurring of the shots than I'd expected. Still, I'm really pleased to have been able to both see and photograph this rare event!

I had looked around for a proper lens filter for taking photos of the sun, but because of the recent annular eclipse all the photo and telescope shops were out of them. During the annular eclipse I found that using my welding helmet wasn't a great option, as it made the sun look green, and my autofocus would focus on the HELMET, not on the sun being viewed through it. I'd been lent some cheap cardboard glasses with sun-viewing lenses during the annular eclipse, and they worked for the most part. The problem was that I had to hold them in front of the lens, and they weren't big enough to cover the whole lens. This let light in, and caused odd shadows on the photos. So this time I did it one better- I got some new glasses, cut one apart and used opaque black electrical tape to mount it on the lens. This wasn't ideal, but worked quite well. Necessity IS the mother of invention.

Because the earth kept rotating, I had to keep adjusting the position of the sun in the frame. I'd gotten a geared head for the tripod so this was a LOT easier than when I photographed the annular eclipse without it. Still, it's not like I had some nifty star-tracking head, so the sun in each shot seems to move around a bit. But clicking through the photos you'll see Venus "move" across the sun. I took 377 photos, and these were the clearest.

A number of passersby stopped and looked at my screen as I took the shots. Many were families with kids. I gave them all a mini-science lesson, and got them interested in it. The universe is an amazing place.

We've all seen pictures showing the relative sizes of the planets. I think these photos are better at impressing upon us just how large the sun is. The distance from venus to earth is 27 million miles, but 66 million miles to the sun. Venus looks small in relation to the sun, but bear in mind venus's position is less than a third of the distance from our planet to our star! If venus was positioned at the surface of the sun it would appear as a tiny dot, smaller than some of the sunspots visible in these shots. The scale of earth would be about the same, since it's only about 500 miles in diameter larger than venus. Interesting, isn't it?


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