Monday, June 4, 2012

Transit of Venus - Have a Captain Cook!

And so it was, what a great day. Hundreds of people visited Siding Spring. 13,000 watched it around the world. Despite some backend technical hitches - All were happy. We got all 4 contacts despite having a bit of a close call with weather and having to move the telescope 20 mins before contact 3. The highlight for me was a 12 year old at the eyepiece of the main scope calling contact 4 at 2:43:50 pm Local time - another generation of astronomers is born!

On Wednesday 6th June (Australian time....5th Elsewhere), it is the last chance to observe a transit of Venus in front of the Sun till the year 2117.

Due to the tilt of the orbit of Venus relative to earth of 3.2 degrees, Transits of Venus come in pairs 8 years apart separated by 105 years and 121 years in a 234 year cycle.

Captain James Cook was dispatched by the Royal Society for the transit in 1769 which was observed from Tahiti. Next stop was Terra Australis Incognita where upon he fulfilled the rest of his journey's goals.

The transit of Venus has been a traditional way of measuring the size of the solar system with a number of useful calculations performed by early astronomers. Today thousands of astronomers, amateurs and citizen scientists, will measure the four contact points and report the timings from their location through social media, smart phone apps, and tweets, giving us perhaps the most accurate measurements recorded.

Elsewhere other astronomers will be looking at the spectroscopic analysis of the atmosphere of Venus as it passes in front of the sun and others will use the near full moon as a mirror and measure the changes in the specra of light reflected off the moon.

Many people will be observing and streaming the transit live online, so there is no need to go to far to get your view of the transit.

I should give the standard safety disclaimer: DON'T LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN - unless you have the specialist equipment required to do this.

You can safely enjoy the transit by following the above embedded broadcast of the Transit brought to you live from Siding Spring, thanks to the ANU, AAO and You might even see a few familiar faces!

So in the time honored tradition of Aussie rhyming slang - Have a "Captain Cook" at this - he did, so should you!

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