Thursday, June 07, 2012

Transit of Venus

A long but exciting day yesterday.  We were up early (too early) to drive down to Sydney Observatory for the Transit of Venus.

They had 3 sessions - we were booked into the middle one going from 10 - 12:30pm.  We actually arrived a bit early and after being wristbanded and given our special souvenir solar glasses were allowed straight in to the Observatory grounds. 

Private astronomers and observatory staff had their own telescopes out, set around the grounds and were letting people look through them.

We were lucky - being in the changeover time, the numbers of people were down a bit, the clouds weren't too bad and we were able to line up and see the transit from about 3 different telescopes straight away (as well as with our solar specs).

After that, the clouds closed in again.  We took a snack break, watched a bit of the live feed being streamed from Hawaii then headed inside the observatory to see the displays they had set up.  We were going to line up to look through the big telescope in the tower (we did that a few years ago when we did a night-time tour there), but the line was too long so we headed back outside.

In time to head into a lecture on solar spots - we were also able to see solar spots on the surface of the sun through the telescopes.  Most of it went over my head, so Billy was a little bored (and tired!) but he's been to his first uni lecture now :)  We then heard a short explanation on how they historically used the Transit of Venus to work out the distance from Earth to the Sun.  Some of which I understood :)

It was still intermittently showering at this stage, so most of the telescopes were covered over.  We lined up for a 3D talk on the transit - which was awesome.  I'd love to know what software was used to create the 3D presentation!

After buying a couple of postcards, we looked through another telescope (between clouds again) and decided to head off as our time was almost up.

It was an exhausting day but definitely a 'once-in-a-lifetime' event!  I'm very glad we went down to it.

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