Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Transit of Venus in Tromsø

1 am sun on passage from Helløy

This is posted with apologies to Bill Webster who has already read it in a private email.

On June 3, 1769, James Cook of the ship Endeavour observed a solar transit of Venus from Tahiti.

In the early hours of June 6, 2012, Larry Roberts and Mary Anne Unrau of the Traversay III observed a solar transit of Venus from Tromsø, Norway.

It was all kind of fun, if anticlimactic.  The nautical almanac showed the sun and Venus to be in the same part of the sky for a few hours before and after 3am local time here.  Of course, the local papers had also mentioned the event too but in unintelligible [to us, anyway] Norwegian.

At about 2am, Mary Anne woke me from a sound sleep to make sure I didn't miss the big event.  Sunlight streaming in the cabin windows precluded the necessity of even going outside. - sunset has been cancelled here until sometime in late July. I got out the sextant so that we might benefit both from its telescope and its smoked glass sunshields ... and there it was - a little black punctuation mark against the disc of the sun!

Mary Anne was quite excited in advance and I think perhaps expected more.  I had done some mental arithmetic from vaguely remembered numbers.  Let's see ... about 30,000,000 miles away and around 6000 miles across subtends an angle like 5000 feet away and 1 foot across.  I was thus expecting a little black football against a white drive-in theater screen a mile away ... and that's what I saw.

I didn't watch the whole thing, it was a bright sunshiny day, but my body clock still said it was barely past 2am.  So I went back to bed content that I had seen an event-of-a-lifetime.

But my two solar eclipses were better, if less rare, I think.

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