The 2004 Transit of Venus

On June 8, 2004 the planet Venus moved across (transited) the face of the sun. Although we were in the wrong part of the planet to see the whole thing, we got to see the last 80 or so minutes.

I had been watching the weather (even more than usual) to see if I would need to make a run for clear skies. Fortunately on Sunday night the local meteorologists said that it would be clear on Tuesday morning. Knowing the weather around here as I do, I was hesitant until I saw that the Clear Sky Clock for Grand Rapids showed that it would indeed be clear Tuesday morning. So now, since I didn’t' have to drive very far, I had to find a place with a great eastern horizon.

Fisk Knob, the highest place in Kent County, might be good, but I hadn't been up there in years, and wasn't sure. The next target was Jeff Kozarski's place in Belmont. I thought that would have a decent enough horizon to see the sun just as it rose above the horizon at 6:03am. A couple of people in the club were going to stand behind a restaurant on Alpine, but after seeing that area I wasn't sure it they would be able to see it with the buildings to the east. I even checked out the "Weatherball Garden" at WZZM, but trees and a building were in the way.

(For those of you wondering why I just didn't go to the observatory, it's because it has even a worse tree problem than other places. There, it was a distinct chance that the sun would rise above the trees until after the event was over).

I then called Rick Clements to see what his plans were. His were simple: sit on his deck overlooking the lake he lives on, and watch the sun rise over the lake. I thought that might be the plan. Then, disaster struck... Ron called me to inform me that his solar filter was broken. Fortunately Rick said we could shoot through his scope, we'd just swap cameras during the event. I then went home and got everything ready.

Now comes 5:00am, and the shrill sound of the alarm waking me to the special day. I got out of bed, threw on my clothes, loaded up the car, and headed out for the wilds of Alto. Driving out there in the brightening morning twilight, I was beginning to wonder if the haze would drown out the sun until it was higher in the sky. I got near Rick's place and kept on driving, until I made it to 84th and Alden Nash. I saw the sun just over the horizon, and drove into the parking lot of a local "town hall." There I grabbed the camera with the 400mm lens and shot a few images of the sun. With the low altitude, the sun wasn't too bright to look at, and the Black Dot of Venus was easily visible. I then drove back towards Rick's, stopping off on Morse Lake Road to take a couple more shots, along with one of the "mascot."

Arriving at Rick's the sun was beautiful over the lake, and Rick had his Maksutov scope set up. I shot a few quick frames, and then tried some with my digital. They looked pretty good. As the event went on, Rick tried his TUCam, and we continued to swap cameras on the scope. I took my last two film frames just after 7, and used the digital to get Third Contact and the hopeful "Black Drop" effect. Nailed it. We even saw it visually through the scope. Rick and I then used our digital cameras to record the rest of the event, up until 7:25am when the Sun's limb was free of Venus. The once (or twice, if you count June of 2012) in a lifetime event was over. I then drove and dropped off the film, came home and dumped the digital images to the computer, and then took a nap.:)

So here you go... The 2004 Transit of Venus (in a few images)

The sun rises with the small disc of Venus on it's lower right side, just after 6:00am

Getting brighter as it gets higher, but Venus is still there

Sebastian the Scruffy Snapper guards the road to the observing site. Beware the uninvited!!!

Rick Clements sets up his camera on the scope

Hmm. What does this button do?

Hey!! It's the Transit!! Lemme take a picture!!

Taking an image with the TU Cam. Isn't technology wonderful?

The black disc of Venus is readily apparent on the Sun's disc

Closer, in size and to the edge. It's really much darker than a sunspot, isn't it?

Almost Third Contact. The tension mounts

There!! The infamous "Black Drop" effect!!!

Equipment used...

Canon F1 35mm SLR
Tokina 400mm f/2.8 Telephoto lens
Kodak ISO 400 film
Sony Cybershot P-71 Digital Camera
Orion StarMax 127 EQ Maksutov-Cassegrain
Thousand Oaks Filter

See you all in eight years!!!!