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Astronomical Serendipity

As an amateur astronomy junkie, a photo hound, and a road-tripper by choice, travelling the highways and by-ways to find a fishing hole or observing location is par for my course. After waiting a year and a half for today’s transit of Venus the weather forecast guaranteed either an earlier night to bed or a road-trip.

The forecasts early in the day made a trip south a potential, but by 2pm just a few hours before Venus began it’s trek across the disc of the sun – we were clouded out to the south. Quick calls to our observing network pointed us north and east of Edmonton, with less than an hour to ingress.

Broken cloud and sucker holes chased us – or should I say – were chased by us as we outran storm clouds racing up from Montana and parts southeast. A trip through Elk Island National Park however proved fortuitous. We’d been heading for Redwater / Bruderheim, when the holes started aligning.

We spotted a turnout for Astotin Lake in the park, and dove into the shoulder.

2 minutes to ingress, clear view of the sun. I unpacked the camera, while Lance (@lancetay) rocked the celestron 3″ dob travel-scopes. We were out to see it with our own eyes… just a glimpse would be a success for us today.

As I raised my camera to the sun, the clouds darted past and I was greeted by a full disk of the sun peppered with sunspots visible through my 300mm (420mm effective) through an Orion solar filter. I quickly set an auto exposure value, adjusted for the frame darkness, set white-balance and fired of the Magic Lantern intervalometer.

Turning my attention to the scopes, I hauled out my Celestron Firstscope – a 3″ dobsonian tabletop scope (Best scope 50$ can buy – and don’t let anyone tell you different.) and plopped in a 26mm eyepiece to view through some Seymour solar film built into a custom full 3″ filter. As I peered through the eyepiece I saw my first glimpse of the sun in full disc glory. A quick refocus, and a Nagler T1 eyepiece and as I peered down saw the very hint of distortion along the disc of the sun as Venus crossed the corona.

I certainly didn’t get to see the annulus, or the diamonds as venus began it’s last transit for over 100 years, but it was awe inspiring none the less. Taking in the views dreamed of by Copernicus and Kepler I was among storied company – those who witnessed first hand an alignment of our sister planet with the Sun. Venus, that brightest of night lights has been a part of human mythology for time immemorial. She shines her crescent on countless evenings for us to enjoy, and today, gave herself wholly to the great life giving sun showing us only her back as she too gazed at the sun.

Serendipity is the happy accident. The finding of good or wonder without looking for it.

The serendipity of this event for us today was the knowledge that as the body of Venus passed in line with the sun, casting it’s silhouette for us to view we were still slowing the car to a halt. As the suns rays passed through the Venusian atmosphere enroute to earth, we were still unpacking the car.

By virtue of the great distances over which her silhouette needed to travel, it would take over 5 minutes for the silhouette to register on our eyes providing just enough time for us to set up, and the clouds to clear. Were light faster, faster than light one might say, we would have been simply too late.

The sun, our great life giver sends it’s energy to Earth in many forms. Light – the fastest – requires over 8 minutes to travel from the Sun’s fiery surface to Earth. That eight minutes, just right it seems, afforded us the opportunity to see a truly astronomical event. Serendipity.



Thanks for the day – Ranger Bob – Lance @lancetay Taylor !


  1. jayscratch says:

    Looks as though you had a successful event, serendipity or not.

  2. Richard Vey says:

    You seem to have had more luck with the Seymour filters than I had. Bought two for the event and they were terrible. Layered ghosting precluded any ability to focus these full apature filters. I was so dissappointed I initiated a debate on RASCAL’s over the issue.That said we were rained out anyway. Is your filter a full apature glass filter and do you have any ghosting problems with these? At this stage my filters are unusable due to the ghosting and the wash out from the excessive orange tinting.

    • Scratch says:

      The photos posted were shot with the Orion glass filter. We used the seymours for visual observing only. I’ll be building a holder for my 8″ dob on the next sunny day I have and will post the results here as well as facebook.

      As such I can’t corroborate or dispute your findings. I know for viewing, I quite like the color of the seymour, but haven’t got any feedback with respect to visibility.

      The Orion that I shot with is full aperture on my camera, but only partial on my 8″. The difficulty in using on my dob precludes shooting with it, and I’ve found that at prime, I get as good a result from my Canon EF 300mm so… will have to try the 1200 prime with the full aperture plastic and see how it goes.

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