Wednesday, June 06, 2012
The next transit of Venus is in 2117. Hope it doesn't take that long to elect a Democrat governor of Wisconsin.
We managed to keep election day from being a total downer by getting away from it all at Pheasant Branch Conservancy, making a family trek to the top of Frederick's Hill in order to be able to observe the transit of Venus from a vantage point with a clear view of the horizon.
Supplies included the special glasses for viewing the sun I got from UW Space Place, a pair of binoculars and plain white paper to project the sun's image -- and in case the sun stayed hidden, an iPad for virtual observation. We had faith the sun would come out, though, and near sunset, it did.
The transit eyeglasses were sort of useless, in the end. To the unaided eye, the sun was so small and relatively dim and red in the glasses that you really couldn't make out Venus, that little flyspeck, unless you had better eyesight than we did. I also tried photographing through the glasses with my point and shoot (I wasn't about to risk my DSLR sensor on a little piece of plastic). That might have worked -- if I had brought a tripod. The image was so dim -- as it was supposed to be -- that even at ISO 3200, I had to use 1/2-sec exposures -- and that made for blurry pictures, handheld in the wind.
That old reliable standby, the binoculars -- a familiar projection device from solar eclipses in the past -- worked great, however. I like the shadow silhouette and the double image the binoculars provided.
By the time we got back to the car, the media were already beginning to call the election for Walker, even though only half the vote had been counted and people in Milwaukee were still voting. Much to think about in the results, but at least we had a memorable experience of something that won't happen again until Dec., 2117. (Hopefully it won't take that long to elect a Democrat governor of Wisconsin.)
More photos of the transit, including a closeup of the projection, in this Flickr set.