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Friday, June 15, 2012

Transit of Venus - Pictures

Its been over a week since the Transit of Venus event. There wasn't alot of time to stop and reflect as we immediately had to move on and prepare for other events and programmes going on during this busy June holiday period.
However, the event went well despite a disappointing start due to bad weather. Around 3000 people turned up at Science Centre that day. When we arrived to set up the telescopes around 7:30am there was already a  queue of 10-15 people eagerly waiting to catch a glimpse of this rare event.

Around 8am the sky was still cloudy and there was no sign of the Sun. After informing the growing number of visitors about the delayed start, we began to standby around the viewing area and wait for the Sun to appear. It was also an ideal time for some group photos.

Anticipation started to turn to disappointment as the time approached 9am and it started to rain with light drizzle.
As the crowd was growing every minute, we were starting to question whether the transit will be visible at all and at what time should announce to  visitors that viewing may have to be cancelled. During the wait, I managed to access and display a live webcast from an observatory on Hawaii's Mauna Loa, whilst other scobbers and volunteers tried to entertain visitors in the queue with some of our gallery activities sets.
By 10am, all we could see were "cloud transits" as the Sun remained covered. So it was time for a talk, two talks in fact. The first, by myself, explained some things about what was happening in the live webcast and some basic information on what else is visible in the sky this month. The second talk featuring more detailed info about the transit was by Mr Albert Ho from TASOS, who regularly helps out at the observatory.
One of the problems about conducting a talk was that not everybody could see it. The ideal location for the talk was the open terrace area in front of the observatory classroom, however the queue line was set up to run down the linkway corridor in order not to cause too much obstruction. Many visitors had to decide weather the would remain in queue for the telescope viewing area or attend the talk. Most people chose to remain hopeful about viewing the transit and kept their place in the queue. However, there were speaker set up along the linkway so that visitors could at least hear what was being said even if there couldn't see it.
After the talks there was a glimmer of hope as sunlight started to appear behind the clouds, a sign that the cloud layer was becoming thinner. Soon after, those that purchased the handheld solar filters were able to see a faint outline of the sun but it was still too faint to see Venus.

By around 11:15am or so we started to see the first glimpse of Venus through the telescopes. Once it became clear enough in most of the telescopes, the doors we opened and we were ready for ACTION:

Small clusters of visitors were led out towards the various telescopes at gradual intervals to prevent overcrowding. There were around 12 telescopes, from both Science Centre and TASOS as well as a few from other volunteers like the Aljunied Astronomy Club, each equipped with strong solar filters to protect our eyes.

In addition to the telescopes, we also set up a number of large solar filters and projection boxes beside snow city and of course the Milo Van and an Old Chang Kee Stall over there as well.

After one and a half hours of hot sunshine and viewing the Venus transit, we were reaching the end of the queue line. Just in time, as around 12:40pm, Venus was almost reaching the end it's transit.
Just prior to the end we managed to take a few photos of the Transit through the telescope to at least have our own record of this historic event. I took the first image with my phone camera, which involves holding the phone at the correct point in front of the telescope lens.
 The below image was taken by our volunteer Eric Lim, who used a DSLR with a special telescope adaptor known as a T-Mount, which allows the camera to attached directly to the telescope.
At the end of the day we were all very hot and tired but it was a thrilling experience to have witnessed this event that won't happen again for another 105.5years. as I mentioned in an earlier post, its not every day we get to see something moving in front of the Sun, besides clouds that it.

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