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Heavenly Experience

The latest transit of Venus took place on June 5th, 2012. If you missed it, next occurence will take place in 105 years.

Although the afternoon was partly cloudy, the clouds cleared around the sun and the Venus appeared as expected, around 6pm EST. I’m always amazed, how exactly the astronomers can calculate these events. (But I guess, it must be more straightforward than to forecast weather for the next day).

I was lucky to get a ticket to the Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill. The David Dunlap Observatory is located in eastern portion of Richmond Hill, Ontario, and houses the largest telescope in Canada. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre, operates the 74-inch reflecting telescope, but the large building with moveable dome was closed for this event.

The grounds opened at 5:30pm, and each visitor received protective sun shades. The filter on the shades looks like an aluminum foil, in effectiveness comparable to a welding shade between #10 and #14, and it is so dark, that you can’t see anything through it. If aimed squarely in the direction of the sun, one can see the sun (which when viewed this way, is surprisingly, a much smaller circle than you would think – smaller than the moon image).

Weather was great, the DDO grounds spacious, green and clean, and the volunteer astronomers very friendly and helpful. The main thing, there was lot of equipment available to observe the spectacular event.

This young couple is setting up their big gun – a 1200mm Orion telescope.

Many telescopes had cameras attached to it, and one could observe the magnified image either through the viewfinder or the back screen on the camera. This telescope was quite strong and you could see just a magnified portion of the sun. At that magnification, the sun moves very fast. The telescope had to be rotated slightly every few minutes or so to keep the Venus visible. Both celestial bodies were moving nicely in sync.

Here we have a smaller telescope, coupled with a larger camera screen, and Venus is visible as a small dark dot in the top portion of the big circle.

The next picture shows the administration building with two of the observatory telescopes built on the top.

One of the telescope on the building was connected to a camera that was feeding the images to a large computer monitor beside the building.
The transit began around 6:00pm when Venus appeared as a small dark spot in the right upper corner of the sun. You can see also some light clouds in the lower portion of the monitor.

The celestial body moved very slowly and the whole transit was supposed to last about six hours. Unfortunately, around 7:15pm the clouds moved in and put a stop to the show.

Great opportunity for a pleasant and memorable family outing and once-a-life learning experience for children. Actually, I had more fun observing the things around the telescopes than through the telescopes.

All pictures were captured with Canon T2i, and Tamron 17-50mm/2.8 DX lens.

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