It was awe-inspiring to watch a planet step in front of the sun Tuesday. I hope all of you had success in your observations of the Venus transit. I drove down to Moose Lake, Minn. (about 45 miles south of Duluth) to join my friend Glenn Langhorst for two bowls of homemade chile and one very tasty transit. Glenn had his 4-inch refractor ready to go when I pulled up. 10 minutes later my own 4-inch scope was on its legs and ready to run.
We waited, now exactly sure where Venus would first bite into the sun’s disk, and a little after 5:04 p.m. were thrilled to see a dark indent in the sun’s northeast limb. As Venus slowly swelled into a black disk, we easily saw the thin, white rim of glowing atmosphere on the part of the planet still poking into the blackness beyond the sun’s disk. The deeper the planet moved onto the sun, the easier to see the arc became.
Having never witnessed this Venusian “ring of fire” before and not quite knowing what to anticipate, Glenn and I were blown away by the sight. We noticed another interesting thing – the white rim was much easier to see through a glass filter yielding an orange image than through optical mylar with a blue image.
Next was the black drop effect. No long after the atmospheric arc disappeared, Venus stuck to the inner limb of the sun for what seemed an entire minute before finally separating. The bridge or ligament connecting the planet to the sun’s inner edge was black at first but turned gray just before it disappeared. Now free of the sun’s limb, Venus began its leisurely traverse of the solar disk for the next few hours. Was there a more perfect black circle – sphere ever in the world? The sight was mesmerizing.
Venus wasn’t obvious with the naked eye through a filter at the beginning of the transit, but a half hour later, after it had fully entered the sun, you couldn’t miss it. The planet reminded me of a large naked eye sunspot.
After a few more photos, it was time to take a break and eat that chile.
We returned to do more viewing and picture taking until the sun dropped into the treetops. If you like really big images, projection is for you. We used my scope to project an image of the sun an entire foot in diameter. Boy, was Venus ever obvious!
I’ve included a few photos of the transit and would love to expand our little gallery with more. Send a pic or two my way at email@example.com and I’ll try to include it later today.