The transit of Venus Australia and New Zealand roundup III – Auckland & Perth
Second contact as viewed in the light of hydrogen atoms with the newly purchased Lunt solar scope and camera at Stardome Observatory in Auckland. Image courtesy Stardome Observatory and planetarium
This is the third and last of a short series of reports on the observations of the 2012 transit of Venus from across Australia and New Zealand. Previously, we have discussed Tasmania and Adelaide and Brisbane and Melbourne while here we cross the Tasman to Auckland and then head west to Perth. The very busy observing day from Sydney Observatory has been well covered elsewhere on this blog, such as on this post.
From Auckland, the Evening Manager at Stardome Observatory and Planetarium, Jill Jessop, reports:
The forecast for the 6th of June had always been heavy rain, with a chance of thunder storms…we were not disappointed. It had rained overnight and by 9am it we were still experiences showers with some very ominous dark clouds lurking over the hills. Ever the optimists we prepared ourselves. Telescopes ready, binoculars ready, screens ready. At 9:30 we had a few breaks in the clouds (nowhere near the sun) and the rain had stopped. Telescopes were moved out of their rain protection and into the open air …just in case. Inside a furious activity with screens linking to live feeds thanks to Sydney…Keck…Slooh and Soho. We lost Sydney a few times but they rallied in the end and supplied some stunning back up for us although I did notice a cloudy Sydney sky?
The new Lunt solar scope and camera, piggybacked onto the side of Stardome’s Zeiss telescope, recording the transit. Image courtesy Stardome Observatory and planetarium
At 10:00am the hopefuls were quietly whispering ‘I think we might be lucky’ as more gaps appeared. All manner of sun shield apparatus was pointed in the same direction and believe it or not at 10:10 the clouds around the sun disappeared. The shout of 1st contact saw all staff sprint to the courtyard to be the first to witness the once in a life time event and it was worth the wait.
The clouds held for us through 2nd contact and at about 10:45 we lost the sun once again to the clouds until the last 10 minutes. During the day we ran 20 minute planetarium shows that we had produced explaining the transit. We run 16 back to back shows (planetarium holds 87) nearly 1400 people saw the show. In total for the 6 hours we had 3100 people through the door. In that time alone we sold 1000 pairs of solar viewers.
Viewing the transit from outside Stardome Observatory. Image courtesy Stardome Observatory and planetarium
The atmosphere on the day was great with lots of questions, interest and friendliness. Love it when it all come together like that around an astronomical event. The best thing I heard during the day was a father talking to his 6year while they watched the live feed…”son that big yellow thing is Venus and the little black thing you can see is the moon passing in front”. Of course this was corrected in the most diplomatic way possible.
Thanks again Sydney for the feed and I’m glad that we were able to reciprocate.
Another view of people viewing the transit from outside Stardome Observatory. Image courtesy Stardome Observatory and planetarium
From Perth, Perth Observatory astronomer Dr William Andrews reports:
We had little luck with the transit. Arie Verveer, the technical manager here, travelled to Meekathara (about 8 hours drive to the NE of Perth) in the hope of clear sky for our web broadcast of the transit, but only managed a few images in H-alpha just before 9am. He spent the rest of the morning in the car chasing clear sky, without any luck. We had a few tens of people through the Observatory during the morning, and lots of phone calls, but no clear sky.
We have an active volunteer program helping with our night tours, and a couple of the volunteers (keen Astro-photographers) took some great photos of the transit – Andrew Lockwood covered the full transit (he was in Brisbane at the time), and Roger Groom took some images from Esperance, Western Australia.
Gingin Observatory (run by a private company doing star viewing nights) had a big open day/breakfast for the transit, hosted by the Governor of WA, and hundreds of people turned up.
To summarise the three posts in this series: though clouds disrupted the view throughout much of Australia and New Zealand, at most places at least part of the transit could be seen with the clouds just adding to the drama of the event. Many thousands of people saw the transit with the assistance of the main public astronomy institutions while many more would have seen it from home, their workplaces and schools plus at observing sessions held by amateur astronomy groups and other institutions.
For most of us this was the last transit we could hope to see, but, with the increased number of centenarians in the community, some of the youngsters who viewed the transit on 6 June 2012 will be telling their great-grandchildren about what they saw before the next one in 2117.