Transit of Venus and upcoming solar eclipse on March 20th!

In 2012, I happened to be at an ESWN workshop in Madison, WI, when, during one of the breaks, one of the participants mentioned that it might be possible to get into the historic Washburn Observatory to watch Venus’ transit. Of course I had to go!

We stood in a very long queue under overcast skies for a very long time. We slowly approached the observatory, all the while watching people ahead of us go in and leave disappointed – due to the clouds all they could see when inside were live streams from other observatories. Still, there was a lot of people still in front of us. We had dinner plans and we knew that we would have to be very lucky to make it in and out of the observatory and to the restaurant on time. Half our group left in order to not be late at dinner. The rest of us stayed, still hoping.

And then we were finally inside! The observatory itself was impressive enough, but then right when we were inside, the sun broke through the clouds. All the astronomers who had been there for hours and not seen anything got super excited, as did, of course, the rest of us. Having waited all that time, knowing that we would very likely not be able to see a thing, and then coming in the moment the skies were opening up? Unbelievable. I still get excited thinking about this 3 years later.

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Projection of the transit of Venus, observed at the Washburn Observatory in Madison, WI, on June 6th, 2012

The projection on the screen shown above only shows a small area of the sun, zoomed in on Venus. You can imagine the size of the projected sun by looking at the curvature on the upper left: That’s the real rim of the Sun, the rest of the circle is just due to the telescope. Watch a (very shaky) movie to get an impression of what it looked like:

So why am I telling you about this today? Because on Friday, there’ll be a solar eclipse and you should totally make sure to watch it! It won’t be a total eclipse where I’m at, but still, I’m looking forward to it! :-)

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