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The Transit of Venus on June 5, 2012 was a once in a lifetime event, unless you happened to have seen the one in 2004 which was not visible from where I live so for me this was truly the one and only chance I had to witness it, especially since I can conceive of no practical way I’ll live until the next pair of transits that will occur on December 11, 2117, and December 8, 2125!

With that in mind I prepared my 10 inch Telescope and my trusty 70-300mm lens with Solar Filters and set up in the backyard where I would have an unobstructed view of the entire transit until about 7:40pm which would place the transit just past it’s maximum crossing (most near the center of the Sun) before dipping behind my neighbors home and the distant horizon.

Perfect!….except…..

Literally 2 hours before the transit began a massive cold front moved through the Salt Lake valley dropping temperatures more than 20 degrees in minutes, and creating some intense sustained winds of 30mph and gusting frequently to +40mph. I set up anyways as it was too late for me to drive anywhere and have any hope of seeing the start of the transit (the most visually exciting part as the silhouetted disk of Venus creeps across the solar disc, giving views to the subtle yet entrancing airy arc of it’s atmosphere hanging like a mini crescent of light against the inky black void of space as half of the planet is framed by the Sun and the other in darkness, and the “black drop effect” as the diffraction of optics morphs Venus in some Dali-esque fashion into a melting sphere that grasps the edge of the Solar disc before snapping back into a perfect sphere for it’s long slow march across the brilliance of our life giving star.)

Sounds good huh?! Well less than 5 minutes before that all happened the skies completely, I mean completely closed up with clouds! AARGH!!! (honestly there are not enough exclamations, words, or emoticons I could use to describe how upset I was at all this) It was totally unfair, the weather before the transit and for the two weeks since have been perfect, but for 4 hours above my house on the only day it mattered at all to have clear(ish) skies it was impossibly awful!

Are you KIDDING ME??!! – 3 shot HDR

This was beyond bad luck, I can only conclude that Mother Nature hates me! And with a vengeance no less, first the solar eclipse gets clouded out, and now this?…

Throughout the 3+ hours from the start to the maximum I was able to get fleeting glimpses of the small dot of Venus on the face of the sun through my telescope visually but never long enough for me to get the camera attached and focused and able to take pictures using the insane clarity it could give. Instead I had to rely on the quick shots through the 70-300mm I must have seen the Sun for a total of 1 minute in all that time.

A teased view of 2nd contact (when the trailing edge of Venus crosses over onto the Sun) I had to really bump up the brightness to show this.

By around 6pm I was completely defeated and a few small sprinkles were falling so I packed up the Telescope. We prepared dinner and as we got ready to eat right around 7:20pm this view happened:

See that middle band? The Sun’s behind that!! – 3 shot HDR

It was a break in the clouds!! maybe I can get a shot through the telescope after all, so I quickly set back up (no easy feat with that beast of a scope)  and got ready to shoot through the telescope “5 minutes is all I need” I kept saying. But that band of clouds followed the Sun right down to my neighbors roof! I didn’t have time to move the scope to the front yard, so I grabbed the 70-300mm and ran out to my front yard where I could see the Sun setting between two of my neighbors houses. I started clicking away using the wireless IR remote, I would snap a shot every 2 seconds to allow the camera to settle between shots.

Peek a Boo! the Sun starts to appear out of the clouds.

Getting clearer!

YES!! Oh I wish I could’ve caught this through the telescope. (full uncropped frame even at 300mm the Sun’s pretty small) And yes those are sunspots (each the size of the earth, remember that Venus is much much closer to us than the Sun so it appears larger)

At this point I called out my daughter, her friend, and my wife to come see it so they wouldn’t miss this opportunity. My daughter and her friend loved it,(even though I had to lift the friend up to the viewfinder to see) my wife said “hmm nice” Then I had my daughter run to get my son from his friends house, as he was looking I kept snapping away with the remote and he said “Cool, a plane!”

Caught a plane! it’s small but there.

More clouds came by,

And finally as still more clouds came in the Sun set behind some of my neighbors trees.

Setting behind the trees and more clouds.

I still think Mother Nature hates me, but had at the end given me enough of a glimpse to at least let me say “I saw it” and to share it with my family.

I’ll take it!!

Here are some timelapse movies I put together from my frantic shooting:

And Finally:

Clicking the links in each of those will take you to my flickr page where you can see the full HD size of the videos.

Thanks for coming along on another astronomical adventure, maybe next time I can show you something at night…

Happy Shooting!

Howard

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