Neil's News

Transit of Venus

6 June 2012

Yesterday's transit of Venus was a major source of lost productivity at Google. There were at least ten telescopes set up around the offices, and countless pinhole cameras, welder's goggles, and eclipse glasses. I camped out on a hill behind the Mountain View office with my tiny 4.5" telescope and an improvised solar filter. A steady stream of coworkers came by to take a peek at Venus as it crossed the sun.

[Group of Googlers with a telescope.]

A number of people managed to get decent photographs just by pointing their cell phone camera down the eyepiece of the telescope. Here you can see the black dot of Venus on the sun.

[Photo of Venus transit with cell phone.]

Since this is the last transit of Venus for 105 years, I put some effort into recording it properly. Using a webcam on my telescope I took 174 images over the course of three and a half hours. Then I built the following movie. In addition to Venus, note a pair of sunspots towards the middle of the sun, and the clouds in the last few frames just before the sun set and as my laptop's battery died.

[Animation of the 2012 transit of Venus]

For the next transit of Venus I need to invest in a higher-quality camera, one with a field of view that can capture the entire sun, not just a third of it. I'd also like a telescope that tracks automatically, instead of having to crank it back and forth. But I've got some time to prepare...

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