VENUS TRANSIT June 8, 2004 by Diane Musewicz

The morning of the transit, I woke up at 3:30AM for a bathroom run. I crawled back into bed and held on because I had told myself I wasn’t getting up until 4:00AM. As I laid there not able to get back to sleep, I finally gave in and got up. In my zombie-like state I managed to eat breakfast and have my first cup of coffee for the day. I was just getting ready to leave the house at about 4:45AM, when the phone rang. Checking the caller ID,  I saw it was Keystone College. My sister, Jo-Ann Kamichitis, was calling with my morning wake up threat. I believe she said in her own special way, “Get you’re butt up here now!!” So I informed her I had to come back in to get the phone and I was on my way.

I figured I didn’t have to be the first one there because I don’t have a key to the gate or building. I don’t think I was the last one to get there, but most of the about 30 people were there and 15 scopes were already set up in the front parking lot and the back field.  That’s a good ratio – one scope to two people. I had on long johns under my slacks, and 2 shirts. Vince Cianfichi was attired in a T-shirt, shorts, a straw hat and sandals. He must have been in a different dimension, because more people were dressed like me.
It seemed to take the sun forever to rise. I said to Linda Smith, “I thought the dawn was supposed to come up like thunder.” John Sabia heard me say thunder, and told us he didn’t hear anything. I wish I could remember what song that line was from.  All of a sudden, Jo-Ann was running around yelling, “It’s naked eye!!” That was the start of a flurry of activity. It was still too dim to see through the filters, but we all could see it. What a thrill! Vince had his solar video setup going, and I couldn’t believe how big the planetary disc was. Then a few steaks of clouds managed to cover the dark spot. It made the sun look like Jupiter. Fortunately, the clouds moved.

I found the Mylar filters annoying. All I could see was me looking back at me, and I only had one eye. The welder’s glass and the one filter Jo-Ann had from “Astronomy Magazine” from a previous solar event worked best for me. I did manage to find the sun with the binoculars and the Astroscan Jo-Ann had set up. I couldn’t find it in Michelle Pettinato’s scope though. Michelle did get it herself when the sun got higher.  Charlie Stetz had an H-Alpha filter on his scope, so you got to see prominences around the edge of the sun too. Bob Smith had a projection set up with binoculars, so you saw two suns. In the 9 inch Clark as the shadow neared the edge John said he could see a slight crescent of the planet. Well, you know John, he always sees things no one else can. But I saw it too!

Tom Cupillari had a nifty solar projection setup, but when the sun first came up it was too low to use. Later on as the shadow neared the edge, I was the only one using it. I think during the morning, I managed to look through all 15 scopes. Some people had the nerve to have cameras attached to their scopes to get pictures. Usually they would take them off to see it live. I didn’t even try to get pictures, because I know me too well.  I would have dropped the camera, knocked over a few scopes and missed the whole event.

Don Murray wanted to get the planet when it was halfway off the edge of the sun, but Dave Barrett kept yelling from the back field for him to look through Charlie Stetz’s scope. So Don was torn. It was funny to watch him. He finally took the picture and then went to the back. By then there was a line by Bob’s scope. I asked Don if being a founding member of the club helped at the line. He said no. So I announced, “Founding member coming,” but the only reaction was Carol Leola’s laughing, “Were the seas supposed to part?” So much for respect for founding members.  I shouldn’t have started naming names. I know I missed people. We even had some “public” there and Channel 28 showed up too. I figure the reason we were successful was because I didn’t spread the word too much. If I had, we would have been rained out.

I told them at work I would be late. I got in about 9:00AM. As I checked out spaceweather.com there was already a page of pictures in the gallery. Around noon, it had 3 pages and when I checked around 5:00PM it was up to 5 pages. I guess a few other people saw the event, too. Eventually LAS member Linda Smith’s quick afocal shot with her digital camera through Michelle’s telescope was up on the site too.

Since we had a Board of Directors meeting that night we got to see first pictures from our board members. Everyone was still babbling about how good the morning went. As you can tell, it ended up being an all day event even though it was over around 7:30AM. I personally give the Venus Transit of 2004 a big thumbs up.

The last transit of Venus was about 120 years ago. Next one will be at sunset in 2012.

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