Seeing The Venus Transit; This Is Why You Should Visit Your Local Hackerspace

So I thought about getting a pair of protective glasses so that I could safely stare at the sun during yesterday’s Venus transit. But then it was forecast to be cloudy in the afternoon (the event didn’t start until 5pm here) so I forgot about it and figured I’d try to catch it next time around (which is 105 years from now).

I went about life, ate some dinner, then grabbed my latest project and headed off to the monthly meeting at Sector67, the local Hackerspace in Madison, WI. Lo and behold I arrived to find this sight in the parking lot:

Sure, my priorities may have pushed the viewing to the side. But others made it their mission to see the once or twice in a lifetime event and I got to see it just for being in the same place as them. This is the meat and potatoes of Hackerspaces…. collaboration. A source of new ideas, motivations, and inspirations.

One of the members brought a telescope and went online to figure out how to safely use it for viewing. For about $2.50 he rigged up a funnel covered with a piece of acetate which interfaced with the eyepiece of the scope. The image at the top shows the entire sun, and even though some of the cloud cover can clearly be seen, there’s Venus, plain as day. The cardboard box is just providing a shaded viewing area around the funnel. As with most cosmic experiences, it surprised me by being way cooler than described. See a few extra pictures in the gallery after the break.

23 thoughts on “Seeing The Venus Transit; This Is Why You Should Visit Your Local Hackerspace

  1. The Venus transit is cool and all, but we really want to know the story behind that frankenbus thing in the background that somehow combines _two_ VW buses and a school bus!

  2. I did a franken bus with VW’s when I was 18. I had 2 of them and 1 Legal VIN number. so I cut them both to make a micro VW bus. a 2 seater that was about 8 feet long and 8 feet tall. Looks wierd. The other I tried to weld togetht to make a super long limo VW bus, but I did not understand that I needed really strong X member underneath to support a stretch like that. IT broke in 1/2 after 2 months.

    so I pried the good vin off that and put it and the better engine in the microbus and drove that for 2 years.

    1. I tried to convince my wife to let me buy a stretched bus once. It had a full kitchenette and two beds. at that time I had two buses already though. She wouldn’t let me. Good thing too, left to my own devices we’d have a vw bus graveyard in the driveway.

    1. Those are some great shots, they came out really nice. I keep doing the best I can with a cellphone held up to the eyepiece because I don’t have a decent camera and adapter.

  3. In regards to Venus… First looked at it with a welding helmet. Then went down the street and watched it with a friends family that had a telescope projector setup.

  4. I observed the transit a similar way. I took a pair of binoculars in my right hand, and the flat surface of a binder in my left and adjusted the distance (between binoculars and paper) to focus it. I could see an image of a bright sphere, the good ol sun, but with a little dot blackened.

    I think this goes without saying but never look directly at the Sun! observing the sun has blinded many a astronomer. apperently the transit of venus was quite a bit of a historical event for scinece back in the day.

  5. Awesome! Looks really great! I watched it two, already the second time in my life. It is so overwhelming to see it directly through black glasses. Makes me feel so small and the universe so endless.

  6. I projected the transit from my telescope onto a sheet of white paper taped to a piece of cardboard. Using a 9mm lens, I was able to even see some of the sunspots. Total cost for enjoying a twice in a lifetime event: $0.00 (not including beer). Still, I like the idea of the projection tube. Even further, I wish I had an autotracking scope.

  7. I took my telescope, and a crappy folded-cardboard & paper sun funnel, to a 4H meeting. There was enough interest that the other meetings in the same building were also interrupted to see it. Pretty cool sight, and does a lot in the “we’re how much like cosmic dust?” department when you realize how close Earth and Venus are in size (it’s minimally smaller than us, and the size comparison to the sun makes it look a lot larger than us because it is so much closer Earth than the sun is).

    As for the hackerspace viewing: involve more kids, please! I want there to be at least a few scientists around to make my life better while I’m old and crochety.

  8. Sigh.. I failed to remember to get the proper filter for my welding helmet. Most likely if I remembered to to do that I would have failed to remember the appointed hour. Once only because I heard them speaking of it on the radio I was able to watch part of a partial solar eclipse when at work in the oil field. I was able to use my field glasses to project the sun on the lid of the pickup’s white tool box. That was a trick to coordinate using my fat head to create a shadow with keeping the field glasses in the correct position, but where I was at work the time I could waste was limited anyway.

  9. Here are the photos I took with my dSLR. I definatly need to pick up some solar film so I can use a larger aperature and slower shutter. They still turned out ok though.

  10. I tired the wielding helmet, it was blah, and I then tried using binoculars while wearing the helmet, worse. I then took the filter out of the helmet put it up against my face (centered on the bridge of my nose really, covering both eyes of course), then used the binoculars right against the filter. took a bit to center the binoculars but once I got that down it was pretty good. tried duct taping the filter to the binoculars but that didn’t seem to work for whatever reason. A few years ago when I was looking into making a dobson scobe (since found a 8 or 9 inch one for 25.00), I used one of those bathroom mirrors 5X on one side and 15X on the other and I was able to project the image of the sun on a wall, but the mirror had to be about 15 to 20 feet from the wall to project it on. but I couldn’t find that mirror (of course).

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