Transit of Venus 2004

Reports And Photos By Members

Of The Norfolk Astronomical Society


Revised 06/12/2004

Dan Rodgers and Kevin Vaught image the June 8 Transit of
Venus from Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  Photo by
Glendon L. Howell, also on the expedition.

The Venus Transit as observed in Hydrogen Alpha light
using a Televue Pronto equipped with a Coronado filter
from Chincoteague.  Photo by Dan Rodgers.

Third Contact, as Venus prepares to egress from in front of our Sun was captured with a Toucam webcam and 8-inch Newtonian at Chincoteague. Photo by Kevin Vaught.

The egress of Venus from in front of our Sun was captured with a 1000 mm Celestron C90 spotting scope with 2x converter at Chincoteague. Photo by Glendon Howell.

Despite the clouds locally, Kent Blackwell was able to get
a glimpse of the transit from the Virginia Beach oceanfront
using his Meade ETX-90.  Photo by Kent Blackwell.

Weather was much better for observers in northern Virginia. This projected image was captured by NAS member Andy Clegg.


As Reported By Kent Blackwell

Late Monday night on June 7 the skies in Tidewater, VA began slowly clearing. Knowing I had to awaken very early Tuesday morning to hopefully view the Venus transit I decided not to stargaze. But wait, the sky was looking pretty darn clear, so out came the 10” f/4.7 Dobsonian. The Jovian satellite Ganymede’s shadow on mighty Jupiter was reminiscent of the event I was counting on seeing across the solar surface Tuesday. Moving the scope away from Jupiter my next sight was Comet C2001 Q4 NEAT. Though it is still quite large, and high in the sky in Ursa Major the comet has definitely diminished in brightness compared to the view in mid-May. Afterwards I slewed the scope over to Xi UMa, a very close and challenging double star of equally bright stars. Suddenly, the stars disappeared as another wave of thick clouds rolled in. I packed up the scope and went to bed at 1:00am EDT.

I set the clock for 4:30 am EDT. Even it I could have slept immediately I would have only gotten 3-1/2 hours of sleep, but was just too excited. Before I knew it the clock was sounding, and jumped out of bed and ran outdoors (forgetting to slip on my britches) to check the sky conditions, only to find it completely cloudy. Would it be a lost cause? Regardless, my truck was already packed with equipment. Dr. Robert Hitt, director of the Chesapeake Planetarium and Judy Winstead soon arrived at my doorstep and we were briskly off to the Virginia Beach, VA boardwalk. By 5:50 am we saw a very weak and extremely reddened solar image immerge from a thin cloudbank. At this point the sun was so weakened we could view it directly in binoculars with no filters. Oh my, I wish you could have seen that view of Venus across the solar surface through the 20x120 Nikko battleship binoculars. It was a view I shall not soon forget. The sun was deep red in color, and Venus appeared as a much larger-than-expected black circular dot. Several Virginia Beach tourist gathered, some knowing about the event, and others who just came to the boardwalk to watch the sunrise. Everyone was just blown away when peering into those giant binoculars. I wanted to spend time taking photographs through the big eyes, but couldn’t resist sharing the view with passersby.

Within a half-hour the sun had brightened sufficiently to require the use of proper filtration. The view was still lovely, and completely cloud free. I also had a Meade ETX-90 set up for viewing and photography as well as a 40mm Coronado SunScope hydrogen-alpha telescope. Each instrument provided stunning views.

I managed to take 35mm prints and slides, as well as about 60 digital pictures. Whether the pictures come out perfectly or not is, well, a moot point after the aesthetically beautiful visual view. No photograph could ever hope to compete with what our eyes witnessed today.


A Report By Kevin Vaught

Monday morning rolled around just like any other Monday I had encountered. However, this one had a kind of electricity in the air that was almost palpable. I knew right away what it was. The Venus Transit less then 24 hours away and I had NO idea where I was going to go to observe this event that no one alive had seen in 122 years.

The weather forecast for Va Beach did not look good according to the Clear Sky Clock for most of the day but it looked really promising for the northern and northwestern part of the state (Virginia). At around 1600 the emails were flying and the sweat was dripping as I began to realize that a road trip was the only sure way to see this transit. Now I was not sweating because it was hot or I was afraid of a late night drive or anything like that. Oh no. I was afraid to tell my wife that I was going to go off in the middle of the night, drive to goodness knows where with a bunch of guys, wait for the sun to come up, and then take pictures of a black spot moving across the face of the sun. I was finally able to squelch my fears long enough to make plans with Glen Howell of the Norfolk Astronomical Society, of which I am a member and he is the president, to head up the Eastern Shore of Virginia to an island called Chincoteague . This would be an ideal spot if the weather would hold for us as it was further north and east of our current location so as to give us a few more minutes of transit viewing time. The plan was that I was to bring a tent and camp while Glen and Dan Rodgers (also a member of NAS) were going to split a room in a local motel on Chincoteague Island. THE WIFE WENT FOR IT.

I arrived at Glen's at around 2115 and we loaded his gear in my 2003 Dodge Durango with a 17 cubic foot swing out cargo box on the back, attached to the trailer hitch. From there we procceded to Dan's house and picked him up. Now the deal was, I would drive and pay for gas, they would pay for tolls and let me sleep on a roll away bed in the motel room. A very fair deal in my book with the price of gas. We were on the road from Dan's at 2200 on the way to Chincoteague Island and the Venus Transit of 2004.

The drive up was mostly uneventful with light traffic as it was late on a Monday night. The only interesting thing to report was watching a speeder get pulled over on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The cop pulled out and passed us and had to be going at least 100mph as he gained on the speeder. Very cool. Makes you sometimes wish you had been a cop (only sometimes though). Conversation on the way up was mostly astronomy related as you can imagine, but we did gravitate a bit toward music and art and some other off topic areas that are not fit for this forum.

As we neared Chincoteague we started to scout out gas stations for the return trip. It was interesting to note the huge gap in pricing from one side of the street to the other. We finally decided on a station on the south bound side that had prices comparable to those at home.

We arrived on Chincoteague Island at 0030 and found our key to the room waiting for us. I was really much too wound up to sleep but knew I would need some rest for the transit so we all sacked in at 0100 setting 3 alarms for 0430 to make sure that at least 1 of them worked and we would be awakened on time to get to the wildlife refuge by 0500 when the gates opened.

0430 did not come quick enough for me but when it did we were up and dressed and out the door headed for the refuge. Glen had brought a fantastic thermos with him the previous day that I was doubtful would still contain hot coffee, but by golly it was hot and steamy and oh so delicious!!!

After a short drive to the beach parking area where we were to set up, morning twilight was in full swing. The sky was a beautiful grayish blue and clear as a bell. It was magnificent. We parked at the north end of the lot just up from some other astronomers who were setting up on the sand. With my ASGT mount this was not going to be possible.

I found a place close to some picnic tables and we setup shop and waited for sunrise. It was 0528. We had about 14 minutes to wait. During that time final equipment checks were made and nervous chatter could be heard (or was that all in my head).

Finally, as if on que, the sun popped up and it was a glorious orange reddish color. Glen got the first picture from our group and it was a dandy. The first 15 or 20 minuets or so we did not need or filters on the scopes. But we did have some clouds to fight. Right after the sun reached 10 degrees in altitude a line of cloud cover obscured our view for about 5 or 10 minuets. Then it cleared for another 10. then at around 15 degrees altitude it was again obscured for another 5 but after that it was clear sailing for the rest of the transit which was over at 0725.

All in all it was a spectacular event. One that I am glad that I did not miss and glad that I was able to witness this event with two wonderful people like Glen Howell and Dan Rodgers, who are great teachers and travelling companions. Thanks guys, and maybe we won't have to go so far in 2012!


Watch here over the coming days for more photos and reports.