The day looked hopeless with not a chance of clear skies. But a small hole opened, revealing Venus on the Sun.
I had seen this sight before, in 2004 from Egypt. But my first reaction upon seeing it again, albeit briefly, was [Expletive Deleted]!!! No photos really provide the visual impression of just how enormous Venus appears on the Sun. We’re used to sunspots (and there were lots today) and some quite large. But nothing we ever see on the Sun matches the size of Venus. The eyepiece impression is of something much larger than the photos show. It’s like Moon illusion at work on the Sun.
It had been hopelessly cloudy all day in Calgary. Interpretive obligations over at the science centre (where we showed the NASA webcast from Hawaii), I hit the highway in search of a clear hole … and found one northeast of the city, one at first that seemed to be wide and stable. I stopped, looked with the filtered naked eye, then drove on seeking slightly less cloud, getting greedy! I should have stopped sooner. By the time I did stop and hurriedly set up the little 80mm refractor telescope, I had about 30 seconds for a great clean view, then switched to the camera. By the time I got it set, clouds were coming out of nowhere and thickening fast. I couldn’t shoot through the solar filter. This is a filterless shot, at 1/8000th second! Clouds provided the natural filtration. Fine! At least I got the camera focused, for a crisp view of Venus next to the clusters of sunspots, something no one alive has seen — in 2004 the Sun was virtually spotless.
So, not a view or photo under the best of conditions, but an experience I am happy to settle for. Now, I just want clear skies in Australia for November’s total solar eclipse. Please!!
— Alan, June 5, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer
A wonderful sight tonight, as I caught Venus in its last days before the transit, shining as a glistening crescent low in the evening twilight.
Venus was visible to the unaided eye after sunset, but not for long. It set soon after the Sun. But for a short while it put on a beautiful show as a large crescent (large for a planet that is), easily resolvable in binoculars and stunning in a small telescope. One could almost make out, for brief moments, the sight of the backlit atmosphere going all the way around the disk. But I suspect it was more imagination at work than reality shining through.
The inset blows up the boxed area, to reveal the crescent-phased disk of Venus, despite this shot being taken with no more than a 200mm telephoto lens. I used a Canon 60Da camera at ISO 100. A plane is flying just below Venus.
So this was May 30, 6 days before the June 5 transit, with Venus 9.5° east of the Sun. How far up to the Sun can we catch it, before it crosses the Sun on Tuesday?
— Alan, May 30, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer
Here’s a last look at Venus before its historic transit across the face of the Sun on June 5.
I took this Monday evening, May 28, with the Sun still up and Venus about 13 degrees east of the Sun but low in my evening sky. Venus appears as a razor-thin crescent, like a tiny “new Moon.” Most of the daylight side of Venus now faces away from us; on the side of Venus turned toward us now all but a sliver of a crescent is dark — we’re looking at the night side of Venus. On June 5, all we will see is this dark side of Venus, appearing in silhouette in front of the Sun’s brilliant disk as Venus moves across the Sun in a transit not to be repeated for another 105 years.
This is a single still-frame grab from a movie shot I shot with the Canon 60Da camera, set in Movie Crop Mode, for a movie 640 x 480 pixels wide. This mode magnified Venus considerably on the frame. I shot this through a small 80mm apo refractor at its f/6 prime focus, so with only 480mm of focal length. But Venus is now so large it doesn’t take a lot of extra magnification to show its disk and phase.
The view through the eyepiece was stunning. The rippling image and sparkling colours, though from distortion in our atmosphere, added to the beauty of Venus, fitting for the goddess of love.
– Alan, May 28, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer
The goddess of love meets the daughters of Atlas — it isn’t often we get to see such a sight!
This is brilliant Venus shining amid the stars of the Pleiades, on the evening of Tuesday, April 3, 2012, with Venus as close to the Seven Sisters star cluster as I can ever remember seeing.
Venus last passed near the Pleiades in April 2004 (though not as closely as it did tonight), and will again in April 2020, reflecting the 8-year periodicity of Venus’s return to the same place in the sky. Thus the 8-year interval between the June 2004 transit of Venus and the one this June in 2012.
I took this through a 92mm aperture refractor, but added the classic spikes of light (which you would normally get only when shooting through a Newtonian reflector telescope) by taping some wire in front of the lens. It’s a technique that’s strictly for show. Some high cloud moving in, supposedly in advance of a big spring snowstorm, added the glow around Venus.
This was one of many superlative Venus events this year. Enjoy the sight of Venus now that it is as high as it ever gets in our northern hemisphere evening sky. We won’t see it quite as good as this again until 2020.
— Alan, April 3, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer
Venus and Jupiter are getting closer! To each other that is.
This was the scene Saturday night, March 10, two days before Venus (on the right here) and Jupiter reach their close conjunction in the evening twilight sky. I’m amazed how high the pair of objects are at sunset, with Venus much higher in the sky than it normally appears. We haven’t seen Venus as well as this since 2004.
This is a scenic prairie nightscape, with some ramshackle buildings from a 1940s vintage farmstead near my house serving as a foreground setting for the sky scene above. Headlights from a passing car provided some handy and warm illumination to contrast with the cold blue above.
— Alan, March 10, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer
This was a beautiful night, with the array of five worlds stretched across the sky, a parade of planets and the Moon.
Mercury is now at its greatest angle away from the Sun and easiest to see in the evening sky this week for the year, at least from Canadian latitudes. Even so, it is low in the western twilight.
You can’t miss Venus and Jupiter higher in the west. Watch them close up and trade places in mid-March.
Mars is now at opposition, closest to Earth, and rising at sunset. It shines brightly as a red star in the east, 180° away from Mercury. It will be in our sky for several more months.
Orion shines due south amid the clouds. The arc of clouds rather nicely defines the arc of the ecliptic path across the sky, the path along which we always find the planets.
I took the shots for this panorama on Sunday, March 4. I took five segments, each 13 second exposures with a 16-35mm lens, then combined them in Photoshop CS5 with its Photomerge command.
— Alan, March 4, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer