Regular readers of this blog will recall that we sought out an isolated (but named) point on Grand Canyon's South Rim for the recent annular eclipse. Since the park became so overwhelmed with eclipse watchers, I wanted to experience in as natural a setting as possible. So when an even rarer event known as the transit of Venus occurred on June 5, we wondered deeply where we would go to view it. I very much like non-social settings for events such as these, but I also don't necessarily feel attached to any one particular kind of location. I try to let the moment speak for itself in these kind of situations.
I first targeted the summit of Mt. Elden which sits high above above Flagstaff at the elevation of 9,299 feet. There is a road to its summit and it would have provided a clear and unobstructed western view. However, the windy conditions of the day really precluded that. So when the US Naval Observatory in Flagstaff announced that they would hosting a "transit party" I thought, "Why not." So, I loaded up my camera, filters and tripod and headed west on old Route 66.
US Naval Observatory, Flagstaff Station (USNOFS) is located on top of a relatively young cinder cone about 4 miles west of Flagstaff. The observatory is set among a well-managed (i.e. thinned) Ponderosa pine forest.
1st contact (when the planet first touches the outside disk of the sun) did not occur until 3:04 PM MST. I used my Canon Mark II 5D camera on a tripod with a 300 mm Image Stabilizer lens and 6400 ISO. A solar viewing filter was placed in front of the lens to allow shooting into the brilliance of the sun.
1874 and 1882 transits. In 1874, this very telescope was used in Peking, China to observe the transit, while in 1882 it was sent to Wellington, South Africa. Eight of these were ordered for use in those two transits and six of them are still owned by the USNO, with this one permanently housed at the Flagstaff Station.
Finally, at 6:25 PM MST, the transit reached its zenith, meaning that it completed half of its distance across the suns disk. Compare this to the first photos and you can see that Venus appears to travel from the top of the suns disk to its lower right. The entire transit lasted for 6 hours and 40 minutes and I saw 3 hours and 30 minutes of it.