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Sunday, June 17, 2012

OFF TOPIC - Observing The Transit Of Venus Across The Face Of The Sun, June 5,2012 CE


OK, this article is way off topic, a departure from the usual theme of this blog. Well . . . in a way . . . it's not a departure, because, I enjoy talking about what is really BIG, and Astronomy is another favorite topic of mine, so, you can't get any bigger than the cosmos! Right?

Yeah! It's a great big fat universe out there, immensely ancient and IMMENSELY HUGE, beyond our wildest imaginations! The sun is big and fat, about 865,000 miles in diameter, and that big boy can swallow a million earths! And there are even bigger and fatter stars out there that could swallow a billion suns, and galaxies are really great big fat things out there. Our own Milky Way is a typical spiral galaxy, about 100,000 light years across. Actually, astronomers have recently discovered that our galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy.

Then, there are giant elliptical galaxies out there much bigger than spiral galaxies, made up mostly of red giant stars, and these big fat galaxies have used up most of their interstellar gasses in star formation, so these giant galaxies, now old and fat, won't be producing very many new stars anymore.

Yeah! It's a big fat universe out there!

Anyway . . . . .

Now, getting back closer to home . . . 

Getting back to our tiny little home planet, a pathetically skinny little planet, only 7,920 miles in diameter. Venus is our twin sister in the solar system, only slightly smaller than the earth, but she is our twin in size only. Other than that, she's a screaming hot tempered bitch with an atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas which raises her surface temperature up to over 900 degrees Fahrenheit, with sulfuric acid storms. WOW! Talk about some acid rain! Eh? Also, the atmospheric pressure at the surface of Venus is about 90 times as great as the atmospheric pressure at sea level here on the earth. So, in addition to being a screaming hot tempered bitch, she will literally hug you to death, and fry you, both at the same time! Yeah! She's not a very nice lady at all.

Ah! But sometimes, she is fun to watch, on those special rare occasions when she passes in front of the face of the sun, an astronomical event called, a transit, when the planet Venus appears as a small round black dot.

Here is a recent photo of the transit of Venus which had occurred back in Tuesday of June 5, 2012 CE.

In the above photo, you can see the planet Venus as a small black dot in front of the sun. A transit, is sort of like a solar eclipse, but unlike the moon, because Venus is millions of miles away,  it appears much too small to cover the face of the sun as the moon does.

Anyway . . . . .

About a couple of weeks before the transit was to occur, I was at a Starbucks having my usual tall Dark Roast Coffee, and I told the lady manager there about the upcoming transit of Venus. I asked her for permission, if it would be OK for me to set up my telescope out on the patio so that customers coming in, or going out may be able to observe the transit or Venus.

Well, first, she asked me if I would be charging admission, and I said "No, that would be unethical." after all, it doesn't cost anything to look up at the sky, so why should it cost anything to look at something in the sky through a tube? Right?

Then, she said, in that case, it would be OK.

I also explained to her, how my telescope would be set up, that since I don't have a proper sun filter, people won't actually be looking through my telescope, but, instead, I will project the sun's image onto a white screen so that people can look at the projected image as they walk by, instead of getting in line to look through the scope.

The next picture below is a drawing of how my telescope was set up to project the sun's image.

Click on image above for an easier to read view.

Notice, that a sun shade is mounted onto the focusing tube of the telescope to cast a shadow. Then, instead of using an eyepiece, I had ordered a 2x Barlow lens that is inserted into the focusing tube instead of an eyepiece, which effectively extends the focal length of the telescope, so that the sun's image can be projected onto a white screen. Then, you adjust the focus until you see a nice sharp image of the sun, and you can even see the sunspots. Then, the further you hold the white screen from the Barlow lens, the larger, and less bright, the image appears, and you can get a nice image of the sun about 4 to 6 inches across.

This is the safest way to observe the sun with a telescope if you don't have a sun filter.



Anyway . . . . .

The transit of Venus was to start at about 4:05 PM, my local time here in El Paso, Texas.

On the evening of June 4th, the day before the transit was to occur,  I needed to know how many degrees difference there was between truth north, and magnetic north here in El Paso, Texas. I had done a Google search, but the latest information I could find was for the year 2008, and I needed the latest information, because the earth's magnetic poles shift around from one year to the next. So, I called the airport, and according to them, in the year 2012, magnetic north is 8.31 degrees east of true north, here in El Paso, Texas.

I needed to know that, because, my telescope has the German style equatorial mounting with the polar axes for hours, minutes, and seconds right ascension to track the sun with a single sweeping motion of my telescope, and it has the north/south declination axes for degrees, minutes, and seconds north and south of the celestial equator.

So, using a magnetic directional compass and a protractor, I was able to adjust the polar axes of my telescope, so that the polar axes would be pointing toward Polaris, the North Star, had it been visible. But of course, being daylight, it would not be visible, and I would probably not be exact, but close enough so that I could track the sun with a single sweeping motion of the polar axes for right ascension, and only having to make small adjustments up and down on the north/south declination axis. Also, here in El Paso, Texas, the polar axis has to be set for approximately 31.75 degrees north latitude.

Anyway . . . . . on the afternoon of June 5th, I had arrived at Starbucks at 3:30 PM, about a half hour before the transit was to begin. I left my telescope on the patio, and the first thing I did was to come into the Starbucks to order a nice tall cold Chocolate Coffee Frappuccino for about $5 dollars, then I went out to set up my telescope.

It was about 4:07 PM when I could see Venus starting to take a small bite out of the edge of the sun, and I sat there, out in the hot sun until 7:45 PM. It was about 98 degrees that day, so I was really sweating in the heat, but it was worth it.     

While I was sitting in my JAZZY Power Chair, beside my Galileo telescope, one of the Starbucks customers took some photos of me and my telescope with an iPod, and asked me for my E-mail address so that she could send me the photos as an attachment.

Sometimes the employes would come out and ask me if I needed anything, and mostly I just asked for cups of cold ice water. One of the customers bought me a nice cold red passion fruit ice tea.

When it was about 7:45 PM, I had to get ready to leave because I had to get home on the bus, so I went into the Starbucks one last time, to order my usual tall Dark Roast Coffee, and as I was getting out my debit card to pay for the coffee, the lady told me to put my silly card away, because it was on the house! And she thanked me for sharing my observations of the Venus transit with everyone there.

I finally came home sometime after 8:30 PM, and I was hot, and tired, but I was very happy.

Then I booted up my computer, and checked my E-mail, and sure enough, I got the photos of me and my telescope as attachments.

Of course, the photos were more than 3000 pixels wide, so I had to use my Photo Base 3 software to make reduced sized copies 800 pixels wide to post them anywhere on the Internet.

Anyway . . . . .

Here are my copies of said photos.

Here I am adjusting the focus on my Galileo telescope and projecting the sun's image onto a white screen. Notice the black foam-board circle mounted onto the focusing tube to cast a shadow onto the white screen.

In this photo, you can just barely see the small dot of Venus on the face of the sun. I'm not using an eyepiece. Instead I'm using a 2x Barlow lens in the focusing tube where an eyepiece is normally attached.

Once I get the image in sharp focus, I then move the white screen further away from the 2x Barlow lens so that the image will appear larger, but less bright. 

While I could see the sun spots and the dark circle of Venus, it can't be seen in these reduced photos.

Here, I cropped out a small section from the larger photos originally 3000 pixels wide.

Notice, that in the close up, the planet Venus can be more easily seen as it moves across the face of the sun.

These photos were taken with an iPod and when they asked for my E-mail address, they immediately sent the attachments which would be ready for me to view when I got home and logged into my computer.

I had to do some work on my telescope to get it properly set up.

When I got my 2x Barlow lens from High Point Scientific, it was too big to fit into the focusing tube, so I had to make an adapter to connect the 2x Barlow lens to the focusing tube. I went to a Home Depot, bought a 2 foot length of white PVC water pipe, which was longer than I actually needed, but it was the shortest length I could buy. Then I cut three inches off of it.

Of course, the inside diameter was a little bit too large, so I had to use some duct tape around the end of the focusing tube and around the end of the 2x Barlow lens tube for a snug fit which would be inserted into the other end of the three inch section of PVC pipe. Then before I assembled it, I spray painted the short three inch piece white PVC pipe with glossy black spray paint, then I let it dry over night, before putting it together. Spay painting it made it look much nicer, like it belongs there. I also put a small hole in the side of the PVC adapter close to the end that went over the focusing tube so that the set screw would hold it in place and keep it from slipping off.

Here is a close up of the focusing mount on my Galileo telescope.

My Galileo telescope is an old used telescope that was given to me by a friend who is also my therapist. We have been friends since November of 1997. It's a pretty good telescope with a 60 mm objective lens having a 900 mm focal length. Of course, I have to order some eyepieces for it, and the small finder scope that attaches to the side.

So, I still need to do some more work on it.

Anyway . . .

I had a really great day on June 5,2012, and there won't be another day like this until until December 11,2117 about 105 years from now.

So . . . . . talk about striking while the iron is still hot! Eh?

Past and future dates for Venus transits

AD 1631 Dec 07
AD 1639 Dec 04
AD 1761 Jun 06
AD 1769 Jun 03
AD 1874 Dec 09
AD 1882 Dec 06
AD 2004 Jun 08
AD 2012 Jun 06
AD 2117 Dec 11
AD 2125 Dec 08
AD 2247 Jun 11
AD 2255 Jun 09
AD 2360 Dec 13
AD 2368 Dec 10
AD 2490 Jun 12
AD 2498 Jun 10
AD 2603 Dec 16
AD 2611 Dec 13
AD 2733 Jun 15
AD 2741 Jun 13
AD 2846 Dec 17
AD 2854 Dec 14
AD 2976 Jun 16
AD 2984 Jun 14
AD 3089 Dec 18
AD 3219 Jun 20
AD 3227 Jun 17
AD 3332 Dec 20
AD 3462 Jun 22
AD 3470 Jun 19
AD 3575 Dec 23
AD 3705 Jun 24
AD 3713 Jun 21
AD 3818 Dec 25
AD 3956 Jun 24

I shall have some really fond memories of this day for the rest of my life.

 I really appreciate the really BIG things in life.

Yeah! It's a great big fat universe out there!

***** THE END *****