Saturday, 2 June 2012

Venus Transit (Many items!), ISS, Weblinks, TV, Solarfest at Dunsink

Hi all,
1. Venus: Going, going, gone:  IAA president Paul Evans met my challenge, to try to spot it one last time on 1 June before the transit. Not only that, but he got a lovely photo of the thin crescent, + Mercury above it!  See the photo on the IAA website: Well done Paul!   

2. The TRANSIT OF VENUS, 6 June: (Abbreviated & amended version of last email bulletin on this item.) This is the last Venus transit visible anywhere in the world until 2117. Transits usually occur in pairs separated by 8 years, with a gap of over a century until the next pair; the first one of the present pair occurred in 2004.  
   I did an interview on Radio Ulster's 'Talkback' at about 13.26 p.m. on Friday 1st: it should still be available via the 'Listen Again' options. So there's already media interest in the event. However, there was nothing in that which isn't covered here.
   Maximum visibility of the event in Ireland will be from the NE part, where the sun rises earliest. But in theory at least part of the transit will be visible from all of the island of Ireland although from the far SW it will be just about over at the moment of sunrise. Intermediate locations may get a brief view if you have a perfectly clear NE horizon right down to the theoretical level at the time of sunrise. In approximate terms, the altitude of Venus, as seen on the solar disc, at 3rd contact (the start of the planet's exit off the disc) are: Dublin = 4.0˚, Cork = 2.2˚, Galway = 2.6˚, Limerick = 2.4˚.

   The apparent diameter of Venus during the transit will be 57.8" (arcsecs); just below the limit for naked eye visibility, so some sort of optical aid will be required. NOTE: All the usual safety advice applies when observing this transit: i.e. do NOT look at the Sun directly with anything except proper solar filters on either telescope or binocs, or by projecting the image through a telescope on to a piece of white card. See for details.

 The following times are given in BST. Time of 3rd Contact in N. Ireland = 05h 37m 03s.  Time of 4th Contact (end of the transit) = 05h 54m 38s approx.  The effects of refraction on both the Sun's and Venus' altitude and the various timings have been taken into account. 

    NB: Sunrise is the time when the upper limb of the Sun first comes above the theoretical horizon. But the transit will not start to become visible at this time, as Venus will be a bit below the upper limb of the Sun. So to calculate the visible duration, we must start from the time of 'Venus rise', not sunrise. Venus will transit across the N third of the Sun's disc, and will be exiting at the NW (top right) of the disc, after which it will cease to be visible.

   APPEARANCE ON THE SUN'S DISC:  Venus will appear in the NE sector of the Sun's disc. At the moment of Venus rise it will be about 1/10 of the Sun's diameter from the Sun's limb. From then on that distance will decrease as the transit progresses to its end.

   OBSERVING SITE: The IAA will be running a public observing event at Garron Point, between Carnlough at Glenarriff/Waterfoot, 

    WEATHER: Unless the forecast is absolutely 100% hopeless with heavy rain forecast, at least some of us will go to the site anyway. Check the IAA website for lat minute updates:

   TIME: If you want to set up cameras and/or a telescope, you should be ready to image / observe by about 04h 40m – 04h 45m BST, so arrive in plenty of time. Orient your instruments to the NE (approx. azimuth of 46˚), and look for the first glimpse of the Sun. Look 20˚ left of Ailsa Craig (a prominent conical island on horizon).

   EATS: We will celebrate (or commiserate if cloudy) with a fry-up at the site after the event, so bring some suitable grub, plus a portable BBQ or gas stove, frying pan etc.

N.B. This event occurs at sunrise on the 6th, so it's the night of 5-6 June!
3. Transit of Venus Exhibition at Armagh Observatory:
The Armagh Observatory is presenting a special exhibition to mark the Transit of Venus which will be visible from Northern Ireland (weather permitting) for a short time on the morning of Wednesday 6 June. During such a transit, the planet Venus passes directly between the Earth and the Sun, appearing as a small black circle taking several hours to cross the Sun.
   This year's transit is the last visible from Earth for more than a hundred years. The exhibition to mark the event comprises items relating to the history of transits of Venus including items from the Observatory's
archives and the King George III Collection. Further details can be found at the website
   The exhibition will be open, free of charge, from 10:00--11:00 and 15:00--16:00, Monday to Friday, from Friday 1 June to Tuesday 12 June inclusive.  Groups of more than six persons are requested to contact the
Observatory in advance: Tel: 028-3752-2928; E-mail:
(1) High above Earth, astronaut Don Pettit is about to become the first human to witness and photograph a transit of Venus from space. His images and commentary will be streamed to Earth during the crossing. FULL STORY: VIDEO:
(2) Heavens Above now has an interactive link which will give you the full details of the transit for your own location: see  
(3) The Middle Eastern Section of the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA/ME) and the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) have created a form for reporting observations of the June 5th transit of Venus and would be interested in receiving your observations of the event.  The form, both a Word and a .pdf version, can be obtained by clicking on "Transit of Venus Report Form" at the top of IOTA's asteroidal occultation North American page at (thanks, Brad Timerson, for setting that up).  The observation reports should be sent to IOTA/ME and RASNZ, to the e-mail addresses given on the form. (Observations should be made to an accuracy of at least 1 second)
(4) The Transit of Venus 2012 – Message to the Future: by Lorraine Hanlon & Emer O Boyle, School of Physics, University College Dublin (edited to save space and reduce repetition: T.M.)
    Since the invention of the telescope, Venus has crossed the face of the Sun only 7 times.
The 2012 spectacle will not visible from all places on Earth, since the Sun will be below the horizon for many parts of the world during the transit. For more information on the transit, please see: Our message to the future
For many people on the planet, this will be their only chance to see a transit of Venus. What story do we want to tell to our descendants who will see the next transit in 105 years? What was going on in the world on June 5th/6th 2012, against the backdrop of this magnificent cosmic spectacle? We would like people to document this historic event by turning their cameras back to Earth to capture photos of special places, everyday life, memorable events, themselves and their loved ones, on the days of June 5th and 6th 2012.
We are asking people to make their photos 'Copyleft', in keeping with GLORIA's open-access philosophy, and to give as much information about the photos as possible. In particular, we ask you to give the location of the photos you submit.
What can be done with the photos? - Some possible uses for the images include:
 Time capsule: School children collect photos taken in their locality and make a time capsule, that could be kept sealed until 2117, when the next Transit of Venus will occur.
 Photo-book: Communities, both real and virtual, could make printed photo-books using images with a theme of special relevance to that community, which could be used for charitable fund-raising.
 Travelling exhibition: A selection of photos could be printed in large format on archival paper to form a travelling exhibit.
How you can contribute
 Join the Flickr group by going to:
 Circulate this information to any groups or individuals you think might be interested.
 Take your photos on the 5th or 6th of June 2012. They do not have to be taken during the transit, since this would exclude people who are sleeping through it! We want to include everybody.
 Upload your photos, providing as much information as possible, especially about the location. The Flickr group will close on June 15th, 2012, so please remember to upload your photos before then.
 You can also email photos directly to:
 All contributions are asked to be made usable by others (Attribution: Non Commercial-No Derivs-Creative Commons in Flickr-speak), as otherwise usage by others will be restricted. As with all Flickr submissions, images may not be used for commercial gain.
 Ensure that photos with people under the age of 18 have the necessary parental authorisation before uploading.
Thanks for participating!
'Message to the Future' is an initiative of the GLORIA project, funded by the EU under FP7. GLORIA is a citizen science project that aims to increase participation in astronomy through open access telescopes and live broadcasting of astronomical events. For more information please go to:
(5) I'd like to announce a new web app for the transit that has been done as a collaboration between my employer, Esri, Astronomers Without Borders, and the Dutch team that has created the VenusTransit smartphone app. You will find it at
   There is still some final work being done and observations shown from the smartphone app are simulated, but the website is now public facing.
   If you are observing the transit with your filtered telescope, consider downloading the free VenusTransit app from the iPhone/Android app stores so that your observations can be displayed near real-time on transit day. There will be some post processing of this observation data at to derive the value of the Astronomical Unit. (From Michael Zeiler.)
(6) Broadcasts: Kyoto University Kwasan Astronomical Observatory will broadcast the TOV.
   The Department of Astronomy of the Universitat de Barcelona and the Parc Astronomic Montsec will broadcast the transit of Venus from Svalbard (Norway). You can follow the live broadcast from (approx.) 22:00 UT to 5:00 UT at:,  or
   Sky and Telescope is introducing where to see TOV on line:
(7) BTW, if you read the Daily Telegraph, you might have got a shock on Friday morning 1 June: Thanks to Sheridan Williams for the following item:
  "In today's Daily Telegraph (Friday 1 June) there is a photograph of the Transit of Venus with the caption:
"Venus passed across the face of the sun early yesterday, an event not witnessed since 1882..."
I wonder what it was I saw in 2004, and how disappointed I am to have missed the event!" Sheridan."
5. ISS. The ISS has started another series of morning passes over Ireland. Because of the approach of midsummer, with almost continuous twilight through the night, these morning passes will gradually merge into a series of evening passes in early June, and it will continue to be visible here well into mid-late June. Details are on the excellent free site  
8. Dunsink Solarfest, 23 June. Following on from the success over the last 3 years, IFAS in conjunction with Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) and Trinity College Dublin are organising a one-day event in Dublin to celebrate solar astronomy. Solarfest 2012 will take place on Saturday 23rd June at Dunsink Observatory, Castleknock, Dublin. IFAS are very grateful to DIAS and TCD for supporting the event and entry is FREE.
   The programme for the event is currently being finalised and will be updated in due course on the IFAS website However, the event will feature a number of lectures, a workshop, solar observing (weather permitting) and more. The lunchtime break will allow an opportunity to take in a tour of the facility to see the observatory and the 12" Grubb refractor. Tea/coffee will be provided, however please bring your own lunch.
  Spaces are limited to 60 seats. If you are interested in attending, please send an e-mail to Please state in the e-mail how many seats you would like to reserve.
  Regards & Thanks, Michael O'Connell

(NB: Dunsink Observatory is on Dunsink Lane, Castleknock, Dublin. The Observatory is at 53 deg 23' 14.3"N, 6 deg 20' 19.0" W, with the entrance off Dunsink Lane at 23' 16.6"N; 20' 14" W. But Dunsink Lane has been blocked on the city side, and the observatory is now only accessible from the New River Road end, off the Navan Road, near the junction of the N3 and the M50 - the Castleknock junction, Junction 6. Since the M50 upgrade this has become a very complex junction.

    If approaching via the M50 from the Dublin airport direction, you MUST get into the correct lane at the offslip, or you'll be way off course! So when you approach Junction 6, move onto the offslip lane (to the left, obviously), but then stay on the two right hand lanes of the offslip, signed for 'Castleknock'. Do NOT keep on going round to your left via the left hand lane on the offslip, which will take you on to the N3 and Castleknock village! (That seems wrong when you know where Dunsink is, but believe me - I learned the hard way! If your Satnav says something else, ignore it.)

    Then move into the left hand of the two 'right' offslip lanes (in other words, the middle one of the three). This will bring you to the original roundabout, with traffic lights, where you then keep left, and then immediately left again, signed for 'Dunsink'.

   This road leads directly on to New River Road. At the 'cul-de-sac' sign continue on straight, and it becomes Dunsink Lane. Go straight on for almost 2 km (past Elmgreen Golf Course) until you see the road blocked ahead of you: the entrance to the Observatory is on the right just before the block. 

   If you go this way, it's simple and easy, so don't be put off - just follow those directions exactly.

On the return journey you go back along Dunsink Lane, then follow signs for the M50 Northbound. (TM)


9. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account:  @IaaAstro

10. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on  
11. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is now even easier: This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA. If you are a UK taxpayer, please tick the 'gift-aid' box, as that enables us to reclaim the standard rate of tax on your subscription, at no cost to you.  See also
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley


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