By Nicholas Hartmann
This was taken around 6:30 p.m. on June 5th during the transit of Venus across the face of the Sun. Not NASA quality, I know, but not bad for a backyard lashup with lots of "legacy" elements! Venus is the big round spot at the top right, the linear features are guy wires and antenna components of the TV transmission towers located just west of us, and the spots on the sun are...sunspots! (Sunspots! from my backyard!)
Tech notes: Panasonic G1 digital camera, Olympus OM 200mm ƒ/4 lens with 2x teleconverter (thanks, Dad) mounted with an OM-to-Micro-Four-Thirds adapter, supported on a Gitzo carbon-fiber tripod with a Leitz ball head (thanks again, Dad). The crucial component was one half of a pair of $2 "eclipse glasses" from the Milwaukee Public Museum taped to the front of the lens. Although the camera was pointed directly into the sun, the combination of a very dense filter plus a long lens plus a teleconverter led to high ISOs (800 or 1600), wide apertures, and slow shutter speeds. The best exposures were about one stop down from indicated.
The weather late yesterday in Milwaukee was perfect: warm enough to sit outside, literally not a cloud in the sky, no wind to jostle the tripod. We made this astronomical event the focus of a very pleasant evening: some pistachios, a glass or two of wine, a good dinner, and that little spot on the sun that is a fer-cryin'-out-loud actual planet silhouetted against our friendly local star.
Only 105 years until the next one.
ADDENDUM: And if you want a less appealingly seat-of-the-pants and more amazingly virtuosic visual account of the event, check out master-of-the-transit Thierry Legault's version...for a big surprise. Read the text to discover just how amazing the capture of the interloper is. (Thanks to robert p for this.) —Ed.
ADDENDUM #2: And Taran Morgan suggested this:
"The videos and images displayed here are constructed from several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light and a portion of the visible spectrum. The red colored sun is the 304 angstrom ultraviolet, the golden colored sun is 171 angstrom, the magenta sun is 1700 angstrom, and the orange sun is filtered visible light. 304 and 171 show the atmosphere of the sun, which does not appear in the visible part of the spectrum."
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Ctein: "Thierry is my hero. The guy makes wonderful and amazing photographs regularly, and his technical papers on telescopy and astrophotography are invaluable. It's also worth noting that much (possibly all) of his gear costs in the thousands of dollars, not substantially different from what people pay for the better DSLRs. Astrophotography is not a rich person's game, it's a dedicated person's game. As always, it's the person behind the gear, not the gear, that makes the difference."
Featured Comment by steve: "Shooting the sun isn't just a matter of blocking visible light, its the IR/UV etc. that gets focused through onto your sensor bounced through the eye viewer into your eye that's a worry. So make sure you take precautions, use proper filters (Baader film is very cheap) and limit your eyes' exposure.
"I was (very) lucky to capture the entire transit. It's winter here in Australia and for three days we had solid cloud cover, almost constant drizzle and 50kph winds. I'd prepared for a few months planning a suitable shooting location that gave me unobstructed views for the entire event (you never really notice just how many trees and power lines are in the way until you need them not to be!).
"On the day I got up at 5 a.m. to the sound of silence...no wind and no rain. Looking out the window I saw stars. I went outside and saw nothing but dark sky and stars...not a single cloud anywhere! For me the transit started just after 8 a.m., and 1,440 shots later it was over. My Nikon with a 500mm Sigma and 2x teleconverter did the trick nicely.
"The sun put on a great show with lots of sunspots and I can see a few dozen in my shots so I'm looking forward to processing them all, making my own 'string of pearls' shots etc. I'd love to have lucked out and caught a satellite or Hubble in some of my bursts but I'm so overjoyed at being able to capture the whole event.
"I completely agree with Nick...Sunspots! from my backyard!"