Prepping For The Transit Of Venus. May 26, 2012Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
Tags: Gizmo, Love and Death, Orion solar filters, Photographing the sun, transit of Venus
On the evening of June 5th (here in the Western hemisphere) Venus will “transit” the sun, that is, pass in front of it from our perspective here on Earth.
It turns out that, because the Earth and Venus orbit the sun in slightly different planes, this is a rare event. Transits occur in pairs, eight years apart… and separated from the next pair of transits by 105 years.
So if you missed the 2004 transit (as I did,) this is your last chance, unless you expect to live another 105 years.
And as I personally am skeptical about my chances of still being here at the ripe old age of 163, I’m going to try to see this coming transit.
Weather permitting, of course. A cloudy evening could render all of this moot. But hey, if it’s clear and I miss it because I thought it might be cloudy, the joke’s on me, right? I mean, the only real guarantee of failure is the failure to try.
So here’s the gig thus far:
Looking at the sun, whether it’s fully exposed, transited by a planet, or eclipsed by the moon, will do substantial (and possibly catastrophic) damage to one’s eyes. We’re constantly implored to observe our frequent Lunar eclipses only with proper eye protection or appropriate projection techniques. The same applies to ANY solar observation. Inexpensive eclipse glasses can be bought online. If you’re just gonna look, PLEASE, take at least this precaution.
Now, photographing the sun is another whole ball of wax. Pointing any camera directly at the sun will yield nothing good, and in the case of a digital camera like mine, will fry the sensor. With my Canon 5D Mark II, that’s a $3000 mistake.
And I don’t happen to have a spare $3000 kicking around at the moment.
So a very specific filter is in order – a Solar filter.
While a piece of #16 welder’s glass (if you could find it) might be duct-taped to the objective end of a camera lens, the result would be an unnaturally green image, coupled with the possibility that one’s Rube Goldberg contraption would fall apart in use, frying the sensor and possibly blinding the operator.
This, to me, sounds like a non-starter.
So a while back I did the (physically if not fiscally) prudent thing and ordered a real Solar filter from Orion Telescopes. It was relatively inexpensive as filters go, though far from free. And it renders the sun in hues of red and orange, rather than the sickly green afforded by welders’ glass.
Still, I’ve been reticent to try it. My 5D is my future, and without a real income, destroying it isn’t an option.
So this evening I took advantage of several concurrent Mitigating Circumstances to get brave and shoot the sun – a gathering of thin, high clouds and a scrim of trees right here in my front yard.
The filter fitted nicely over Gizmo’s objective end, and with Liveview (mirror lock-up/LCD display) in play, I panned the sky for my prey, then focused on the intervening trees to get this shot:
I know, I’m skirting the issue, dodging the bullet, approaching this project with my tail between my legs. But in this case I don’t see the advantage of boldness; I’m not willing to trash my 5D to prove my manhood.
The next step in this process, as I envision it, is to photograph some subtle, low-light scenes and try to determine if my sensor has been affected in any way. Then it’ll be on to photograph a less obscured sun and repeat the evaluation.
With any luck I’ll have allayed my fears and learned enough about this set-up to be ready to photograph the Transit on June 5th.