The Transit of Venus is something that gets stargazers very excited. It is one of the most rare cosmological events and holds particular significance for Australia.
For those who haven't heard of it, Transit of Venus is a phenomenon where the planet Venus passes directly between the Earth and Sun. Transits occur in pairs: the last transit took place on June 8th, 2004; the next will not occur until 2117.
The event has been of great historical significance. In 1639, the transit was used to provide an estimate of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, thereby giving us a realistic estimate of the size of our solar system.
For the 1761 transit, scientists were dispatched to points all over the globe including Siberia, China, South Africa and Indonesia. France alone sent thirty two observers, Britain sent a further eighteen. It was the first cooperative international scientific endevour in human history. Many observers were unsuccessul due to war, illness or equipment failure.
One French observer, Guillaume le Gentil, headed for India but found himself still at sea on the day of the transit and unable to make reliable measurements on his pitching boat. In the spirit of the time, le Gentil remained undaunted and stayed on in India for eight years until the 1769 transit. On the 4th of June 1769, le Gentil's awoke to a fine day, but cloud slid over sun and stayed there for almost the exact duration of the transit. To add insult to injury, le Gentil's trip home was marred by disentary and a hurricane off the cost of Africa. Arriving back in France more than eleven years after setting off, having achieved nothing, le Gentil discoverd that his family had declared him dead and plundered his estate.*
Le Gentil's efforts were the only ones that ended in failure. Sadly, the measurements of the 1761 transit were to prove useless and scientists were unable to resolve the many results.
In 1769 the successful charting of the transit fell to a little known sea captain named James Cook. He watched the transit from Tahiti and then departed for his secondary mission; to search for the 'great south land'. So it was due to the Transit of Venus that Australia was charted and claimed in the name of Great Britain.
The transit does provide an extremely rare opportunity for photographers. As the website Ice In Space
observes, "Photographing a Transit of Venus isn't extremely difficult, but does take some special planning and preparation if you want to do it well."
With that in mind, I have put together a few resources that will help you photograph this atronomical phenomonon.
Ice In Space
claims to be the largest online astronomy community in the Southern Hemisphere. They have put together a helpful Observing/Imaging Guide
for the June 6th transit which includes a helpful photography guide
has a wealth of resources including a chart of viewing times (included below) and they will even have a real time video link through which you can observe the transit online if you're not fortunate enough to make it outside.
As you'd expect, there's an Transit of Venus app available for your phone. The app is available for both iPhone
and will help you determine when the transit will be visible in your area. You can also be part of a global experiment to help measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun (yes it's been done but now you can be a part of it).
If you are successful in capturing the transit, we'd love to see your pictures. Hit us up on Facebook
and we'll share your shots of this remarkable event with the world.
*Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything