Wrapup: The CAA & Transit of Venus program

by William Murmann, CAA President

This month, we had one of the most successful public events in the history of our club with the 2012 Transit of Venus program at Edgewater State Park in Cleveland on Tuesday, June 5.

We worked with Cleveland State University, Baldwin-Wallace College, the Cleveland Astronomical Society (CAS), and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Edgewater State Park staff to present a program that provided an opportunity for about 7,000 people to personally use telescopes to observe one of the major astronomical events of this century and of our lifetimes.

I think it’s important to document our transit program here in our newsletter and on our website, and to recognize our members who provided most of the telescopes used at Edgewater State Park to observe Venus during the transit.

CAA member Jay Reynolds, a professional astronomer who teaches at Cleveland State University, personally organized and coordinated the transit program. Here are the major participants who worked with Jay:

Cuyahoga Astronomical Association. CAA members provided most of the 30 or so telescopes that were used for public observations during the June 5 transit, and helped assemble the 5,000 No. 5 optical-grade Mylar solar viewers that were given away to the public. CAA President Bill Murmann participated in planning and supporting the program.

Cleveland Astronomical Society. CAS President Bob Sledz and his wife, Ingrid, worked on the transit project. Bob designed the Mylar solar viewers, which were paid for by a personal donation from CAS member Joanne D. Denko, M.D. CAS members helped assemble the solar viewers, and manned a table during the transit program to distribute the viewers free of charge to the public.

Cleveland State University. CSU’s College of Science, represented by Jay Reynolds, was a major supporter of the Transit program. CSU science students helped with the event.

Baldwin-Wallace College. B-W Observatory Director and CAA member Gary Kader and science students from the college provided telescopes and other support during the program. The college also created and distributed special souvenir bookmarks commemorating the transit.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources. ODNR officials and Edgewater State Park staff provided outstanding support and planning for the transit program. Park Rangers and staff provided extra security, traffic control, and other services that helped make the Transit a great success.

Exhibitors. Ten exhibitors set up information tables for the transit program, including the Cleveland Astronomical Society, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the International Women’s Air & Space Museum, the U.S.S. Cod,  the Friends of Edgewater, Akron radio station WNIR, Baldwin-Wallace Admissions, Cleveland State Admissions, and the CSU Wolstein Center.

The Natural History Museum’s Observatory Coordinator and CAA member Clyde Simpson and Planetarium Coordinator Jason Davis brought a desktop solar telescope for use at the Museum’s information table.

NASA Glenn Research Center. While not an official exhibitor, NASA Glenn sent their Satellite Truck and Video Projection Truck to show a live video feed of the transit as seen in Hawaii.

News Media Coverage. The transit and CAA received extensive news media coverage before, during, and after the event, thanks to interviews and promotion done by Jay Reynolds. Media coverage included The Plain Dealer, Fox TV 8, WTAM, WNIR, WKYC, WEWS TV, WDOK, and WCPN.

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CAA Telescopes. CAA members who brought their personal telescopes for the public to observe the transit include: Gary Kader, Bob Pence, Jay Reynolds, Bill Murmann, Susan Petsche, Jim Cofer, Tim Campbell, Bill & Carol Lee, Bruce Lane, Lynn Paul, Carl Kelley, Bob Wiersma, Matt Franduto, Steve & Gail Korylak, Steve Spears, Trevor Braun, Suzie Dills, Gus Waffen, Ted Sauppé, and Chris Christe.

Members and others who helped at Edgewater without telescopes include: Steve Gallant, Ron Devine, Kathy Ruffus, Isabel Guadiz-Tobey, and Mary Ann Wadsworth.

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Thanks to the support of our members and other sponsoring organizations and individuals, this was a memorable program. Many thanks to all!

Drizzle then delight: The 2012 Transit of Venus

Photo: Transit of Venus by Matt Fraduto
Venus begins its transit. Photo by Matt Franduto.

June 5 began cloudy, even rainy in places…the worst possible conditions for a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event: the transit of Venus! Since most recent transit took place in 2004 and the next will not be seen until the year 2117, it was today or never for everyone who had an interest.

Photo: Transit of Venus by Joe Hamlin
Second contact during the transit of Venus, by Joe Hamlin.

As it turned out, however, barely in time for the 6:04 PM EDT start of the transit, skies began to brighten, then clear! Thousands across the North Coast region were treated to excellent views of Earth’s would-be solar system twin in silhouette against the boiling surface of our nearest star.

A special celebration was staged at Edgewater Beach State Park and was the largest event of its kind in the area. Based upon controlled distribution of free solar viewer cards, event coordinator Jay Reynolds estimated as many as 8,000 people may have attended. Smaller public and private observing sessions took place around Northeastern Ohio including Black River Astronomical Society in Lorain, the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center in Bay Village, Hiram College in Hiram, and the Aurora Astronomical Society in Streetsboro.

Photo: Transit of Venus by James Guilford
Transit of Venus 2012 with sunspots and photosphere granulation visible. Photo by James Guilford.

Members of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association, the Cleveland Astronomical Society, and others provided a good number and selection of telescopes, sharing their views of the transit with the public. Equipment ranged from the newest computerized models to beautiful, brass instruments likely a century in age — telescopes, unlike people, can survive to see more than just a couple of Venusian transits.

WKYC TV-3 staffer Ryan Haidet shot and posted a good number of still photographs of the Edgewater event. To see them individually or as a slide show, Click Here!

WEWS TV-5 Meteorologist Jason Nicolas wrote an article describing his impressions and how the crowd reacted to the “magical moment” in time defined by the transit of Venus. To read the article, Click Here.

Photo: Sunset over Lake Erie by Christopher Christe
Sunset ended viewing of the transit but a star party took place after dark. Photo by Christopher Christe.

Catch the transit in Cleveland

Photo: Transit of Venus 2004 - Credit: SOHO
The 2004 Venus transit as seen by the Solar and Helospheric Observatory (SOHO). SOHO/EIT/ESA/NASA

Observers on the North Coast are well-positioned to see the last transit of Venus in our lifetimes on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. The event is rare, indeed, with the next transit taking place in the year 2117 — and then not visible from Northeastern Ohio!

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association, with several other astronomical and educational organizations, will host a major event celebrating the 2012 transit of Venus. The public is invited to Cleveland’s Edgewater State Park where telescopes will be set up, exhibitor booths and hands-on demonstrations operated, and solar viewing glasses made available. Observing of the transit begins just after 6:00 and ends with sunset, the transit still in progress. As darkness falls, the telescopes will turn toward other objects: the Moon, Mars, Saturn, even the International Space Station will put in an appearance! The lakefront event ends at 11:00 PM.

The transit begins at about 6:04 PM EDT, when Venus appears to straddle the solar limb and is then visible until the Sun sets, having progressed halfway across the solar disk. In times past, transits of Venus were significant to astronomers as a means to accurately determine the size of the solar system. Astronomers from around the world embarked on expeditions to make observations from widely-separated locations. Today the rare alignment demonstrates how astronomers can detect planets orbiting distant stars using the transit method. For much more information on the 2012 transit of Venus, visit TransitOfVenus.org.

For a schedule of events and location information, see the PDF located here, courtesy of Cleveland State University. In case the weather is bad or you just can’t make it, view the transit via Webcast: Click Here for Webcast Information or visit the Space Camera site: Click here for Slooh.com.

Now all we need is clear skies

Photo: The Sun as it appeard the morning of May 24, 2012. Photo by James Guilford.
The Sun with (center) sunspot #1486 and (upper-right) sunspot #1484. Converted to monochrome.

“I spent some time this morning experimenting with solar photography. On June 5 the transit of Venus will take place and, since the next one after that won’t happen for another 115 years, I thought I should try for this year’s! Call me impatient. I discovered to my dismay that my very expensive, modern-design, Herschel Wedge won’t work for photography with my six-inch refractor telescope and DSLR. I could not crank the camera “in” close enough to achieve focus with the wedge in place. Rats! I’m going to make quick queries to see what I can do to resolve the issue if I’m to use the wedge any time soon … and June 5 is soon!  So with the telescope still set up in the mid-morning sunshine, I removed the wedge and covered the telescope’s objective lens with the very inexpensive AstroZap filter made using Baader AstroSolar film. I connected my trusty (and light-weight) Canon Digital Rebel XT to the scope’s eyepiece holder for prime-focus imaging and made several bracketed exposures. Later I discovered the results were very good though not quite as good as shots made with my Canon EOS 50D and Canon 400mm telephoto. The difference in quality may be attributed to seeing conditions –the images were made days apart– but either setup will do just fine for recording the upcoming historic celestial event. Now all we need is clear skies on that day!” — James Guilford