Written by Kelly Herbst, Astronomy Curator for the Virginia Living Museum. Updated every two weeks, more or less.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Listen...Do you smell that?

But more importantly...did you see it?

Wow, the transit of Venus was amazing!  Weather locally here at the museum almost killed us...but just at the eleventh hour, the clouds parted a bit, and we got a decent view of the Sun.  We had 5 telescopes trained on it and got views of Venus in all five.  Plus we had the live stream from Mauna Kea in Hawai'i thanks to NASA.  It was an amazing evening, and I think our sold-out crowd really enjoyed themselves!

It's been a crazy day here at the Abbitt Planetarium, trying to recover from our big event, but I wanted to share a few photos with you all.  All of these shots were taken by one of our wonderful volunteers, Eric Hedden.

First, some of our telescopes:

In this image, you can see our 8" Celestron, our Coronado Personal Solar Telescope, and our Sunspotter Keplerian telescope.  We also had our 4.5" Orion refractor in use, plus another couple of our great volunteers brought their double-stacked solar scope for a truly excellent view.

Some images taken quickly through our 4.5" using nothing more than a cellphone:

These were taken with a white-light filter on the 4.5".  If you look closely, you can see not only wisps of clouds going by, but also one or two tiny sunspots in the images.

Finally, a shot through the PST:

This image is red because the PST uses a hydrogen-alpha filter, meaning that only red light is passed through the telescope.  Note that although the image is smaller, the dot of Venus is still quite clear.  It's also mirror reversed compared to the images from the 4.5".  This too was taken simply by holding up a cellphone camera to the eyepiece of the PST.

Aren't they amazing shots!  Just you guys wait until we get our new cameras from Orion up and working!

We might be ready to do some testing with them at the upcoming Star Party and Laser Light Night this Saturday!  Join us for solar viewing early (weather permitting) and evening viewing after sunset (probably starting around 9pm).  Observing is FREE!  Come and enjoy!

We'll also have a great selection of laser and planetarium shows for you.  For summer, we're adding an extra early family laser show so even the little ones can get in on the fun!  At 6:30pm enjoy Laser Beatles, at 7:30pm we'll run Saturn: The Ringworld, at 8:30pm you can rock to Laseropolis, at 10pm get psychedelic with Laser Doors and keep the mood going at 11:30pm with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.  Hope we'll see you then!

Until next time,
Carpe Noctem!

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