Thanks to good weather and good friends
Historians will note (or maybe they will overlook this tiny factoid) that several hundred people enjoyed the last Transit of Venus during the 21st century at the Rockwall County Library on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. It was my great pleasure to “deliver as promised” an exceptional stellar event for our fellow Rockwall citizens.
One of the reasons that this event is so special is that it is extremely accessible to everyone. Moms, dads, brothers and sisters can just show up, in this case, conveniently after dinner to view the event. The best part is that no one had to mount a major international expedition (like they did in 1700s) to view this event. Nope, this transit of Venus was a very family friendly event. Best of all, the weather actually cooperated with us here in Rockwall better than just about anywhere else where an event was held in the Metroplex.
My dear friends and fellow members of the Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas banded together to hold several events but they seemed to be clouded out during the most important times of the event. We were truly blessed with great views.
Speaking of being blessed, one of my colleagues at work, Mr. Mike Greer, showed up just prior to the start of the event while I was setting up and he saved the day. Mike is a brilliant engineer who studied astrophysics and cosmology under the world-renowned Professor Wolfgang Rindler at UTD. Whenever I show Mike pictures of deep space, he often harkens back to something Rindler taught him decades ago.
A problem with one of my telescopes meant that it needed tending every 3-5 minutes to keep the Sun and Venus perfectly in view for the gathered crowd. However, this meant that my other telescope was unmanned and could have proved disastrous because we had such a large crowd. I had two telescopes but only one of me to operate them.
Normally I let the big one stay on autopilot while I operate the smaller H-alpha scope on a camera tripod. With both scopes needing attention, and only one of me, meant we were down to one telelscope for 300 folk…..which just doesn’t cut the mustard. Thanks to his can-do attitude and selfless giving, Mike Greer saved the day for all of us as he operated my small Hydrogen Alpha telescope throughout the entire Transit of Venus. I want to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge and give heartfelt thanks to Mike for stepping in when needed. In all my years doing astronomical outreach I have never been so fortunate as during the Transit of Venus when a co-worker jumped in to save the day. Thanks, Mike!
The event was a great success as people seemed to instantly connect with the event as soon as they witnessed it. It seemed as though folks were moved by the event in a very deep and meaningful way. Part of me wants to say there is a spiritual connection that happens when people witness firsthand their Universe in operation. I still say “wow” on occasion and lets face it, I have seen a lot of things in space. What’s really special is that single parent who is making the extra effort to bring a child to an event like this for its enrichment possibilities and have them and their child emit a nice little “wow” or “that’s amazing” or “I can see it” as they witness something for the last time in our lives.
Throughout all of this I managed to bag a photograph of the event using a little point-and-shoot Sony Cybershot camera. This image came through me 80mm refractor with aThousand Oakswhite light solar filter. The scope was on a non-tracking (broken) equatorial mount at the time this image was captured.
In closing, none of this event would have been possible without the use of our wonderful Rockwall County Library, an island of literacy in our community. Specifically, Doreen Miller and Alan Pippin were responsible for supporting this event and ensuring everything went off without a hitch.
Although I was completely wrapped up at the telescopes, Alan, himself an amateur astronomer, ran the Powerpoint slide show that I developed for the event as many times as people needed to see it so the public was entertained and informed.
To learn more about AstroDad, visit AstroDad.com or read his columns here at Blue Ribbon News:
Our Universe Today is a column written by Blue Ribbon News special contributor, Max Corneau, who has lived in Rockwall with his family since 2000.
Max retired from the U.S. Army in 2009 as a Lieutenant Colonel, Senior Space Operations Officer and Master Aviator. He amassed over 3,200 hours as a pilot of Special Electronic Mission Airplanes. Since 2004 he has been a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, is a Master of Astronomical Outreach through the Astronomcial League and built his own astronomical observatory. His amazing images can be seen at AstroDad.com.
To submit your news and events or a guest column on your area of expertise, email editor@BlueRibbonNews.com.