Once in a Lifetime – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Once in a Lifetime

This month an event occurred that will not reoccur for more than a century.  Joshua Nollenberg, assistant professor of physics, captured the transit of Venus on his telescope on June 6 as Venus began its trip past the sun. Nollenberg was one of millions of people watching the once-in-a-lifetime event.  

“The Transit of Venus is a very rare event. They happen in pairs, separated by eight years, every 105 years,” said Nollenberg, noting the last transit took place in 2004. 

Nollenberg and about 40 other people assembled for a viewing on one of the practice fields near Odell’s Pond. Some made a small picnic and brought their children. “We wanted to have a location with a low horizon to the west to see as much of the transit as possible. The skies managed to clear in time for everyone to see the first half of the Transit before sunset,” said Nollenberg.

Nollenberg was able to photograph the planet using his telescope and camera. “I set up a 5-inch Maksutov telescope with a solar filter and a DSLR camera and took still images every six seconds at the beginning of the transit. Later in the transit, I took images every 30 seconds,” he says.

“The transit happens whenever Venus passes directly between the Earth and the Sun as it overtakes Earth on its own orbit. Because of this very precise alignment, astronomers used the Transits of Venus in order to estimate the size of the solar system,” Nollenberg explained.

Nollenberg also shot a video to capture its movement across the sun for others to see. “The video uses selected frames that are each separated by four minutes and 40 seconds to show the progression of the transit, with clouds getting in the way early in the transit,” he said.

The next pair of events signaling the transit of Venus will occur in 2117 and 2125.  “The Transit of Venus is interesting because it shows that the universe is dynamic,” said Nollenberg.

In the photo above, Nollenberg captured Venus moving across the Sun in the transit event on June 6, 2012.

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