Transit Of Venus A Huge Hit Across The Country

Amanda Haglund of Moose Lake holds a white board with a projected image of the sun and Venus (dot at upper left) during the transit. Photo: Bob King

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.

This picture, taken through an 8-inch Dobsonian reflector with a solar filter, shows the thin white outline of Venus' atmosphere beyond the sun's edge. "At first I thought I was imagining a thin white line with the naked eye through the telescope, but after I unloaded the cameras, I noticed it did vaguely show up on the images," said Larry Regynski. Thanks and credit to: Larry Regynski
How about this perspective? Venus floats against the corona beyond the sun's edge in this photo taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) at 12:25 a.m. today after the transit finished. Click image to see a whole page of SDO stills and movies of the transit. Credit: NASA/HDI

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.

Two views of the Venus transit through a 4-inch telescope. At left, Venus looks like a notch made with a paper punch. The other dark flecks are sunspots. Photos: Bob King

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.

Kevin Nudell watches Venus and the sun through an 8" Meade telescope. He and his father, Bob Nudell, shared both Tuesday's and the 2004 transit together. Credit: Bob Nudell. Photo at right by John Sponauer

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.

Glenn Langhorst holds his canine observing companion Lucy while watching Venus' progress through the telescope. Photo: Bob King

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!

Venus was an easily visible black dot through a Nikon 55-300mm lens at 300mm from Anamosa, Iowa. Thanks and credit to: Steve Wendl

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 and I’ll try to include it later today.

Dan Staley took this photo at Observatory Park in Denver. His daughter Payne observes the transit through a hydrogen-alpha telescope.
Nice photo of the black drop effect at the end of second contact. Credit: William Wiethoff
Matthew Connell captured both the transit and the scene from southern Oregon. "There was thick cloud cover most of the afternoon and quite a bit of rain. We got a good look twice, for a total of maybe 20 minutes," said Connell. "We were VERY glad to get a short window of opportunity!"
Members of the Arrowhead Astromical Society in Duluth, Minn. including William Wiethoff (center right) share views of the transit with the public Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Eric Norland
This composite photo required patience and careful timing. Rick Klawitter of Port Angeles, Wash. observed the transit from 2:30 to 9:10, taking about 20 pictures per hour. "It took 15 to 20 photos and several attempts to create this composite picture. Credit: Rick Klawitter

16 Responses

  1. David Teske

    Congrats on a great view of the transit. I drove to Tennessee as the forecast was “iffy” in Mississippi. Had a great view! I agree, the ring of Venus on the limb was much easier to see than I imagined! Back in MS, they did get clouded out.

    Summer vacation is upon me. Do have some astronomy programs, a Roger Waters concert, and our trip to Duluth!

    Thanks again for the good article and photos! Hope to see you.

    1. astrobob

      Hi David,
      So nice to hear from you. I’m glad you got to see the transit – as a long-time solar guy I couldn’t imagine you missing it. Let’s plan on meeting up when you’re back in town.

  2. Mike Thiele

    Great Bob!
    Please explain how one can could have projected the image enlarged as shown in the one photo. I tried using welders glass but the disc of the sun was so small it was almost impossible to see Venus. I want to be ready the next go around! :^>
    Thanks as always for your knowledge and dedication to enlightenment Bob.
    Take care.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Mike,
      It sounds like you had the right equipment. We were using a welder’s glass for all the naked eye viewing and saw Venus easily. Only when it first entered the sun’s limb was it a bit tricky. To project the sun’s image, I put a low power eyepiece in the scope (a little refractor). Amanda walked back about five feet away and I focused the image on the board. What you don’t see are the two people holding blankets up around the scope to create a shadow on the board so the sun would stand out better.

  3. Doug

    Hey astrobob just read and article on universe today claiming that a glowing green asteroid is coming for earth. Any thoughts on this? It was found on google sky, so there is no way they can determine it’s path right?

    1. astrobob

      Hi Doug,
      As the story states in Universe Today, it’s not an asteroid at all but a technical glitch from Google’s stitching together of individual photographs to create one big map. People have repeatedly reported glitches like this over the past couple years and make incredible claims as to what they are. All have been nothing more than artifacts.

      1. Doug

        Thank you for the reassurance. If an object that big were really out there, we would’ve found it by now wouldn’t we?

  4. Ann

    Can you recommend a good magazine for amateur astronomers? “Astronomy” or “Sky and Telescope” seem popular but not sure which is best. Thanks


    1. astrobob

      Hi Ann,
      They’re both excellent, but I’d lean a little bit more toward Astronomy. It’s a bit less technical.

  5. James

    Astrobob – what power were you using in your 4 inch Scopes when you observed the ring of light?

  6. Lynn

    Hi Bob
    Regarding Doug’s comment is that really not an asteroid? Is it really a hoax as people are saying that the image on google has been taken down now and the google maps is not working anymore, and I’m sure everyone would have seen this by now right even yourself? Thanks Bob :

  7. Lynn

    Thanks Bob, and after I wrote to you I was outside having a look at the stars as it is nearly dark here in the UK and where I was standing I noticed like a light it looked like red then as it seemed to pass by the clouds it was black looking and went straight across the sky quite slowly, was that the space station by any chance.

    1. astrobob

      The space station looks like a moving bright light but it’s color is yellowish, maybe a little orange. It’s possible you might have seen it.

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