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Adventure Company witness the Transit of Venus

On the 5 June The Adventure Company and Astronomy Tours team witnessed the the transit of Venus in Hawaii, which lasted a spectacular six hours and thirty four minutes.

David Phillips, Astronomy Tours in-house astronomy expert and tour leader, describes this phenomenal event, '

Just two weeks after the annular eclipse which many of our clients had seen from Bryce Canyon in Utah, we travelled to Hawaii.  From there we witnessed the second celestial event of the tour which was a partial lunar eclipse on the night of 3rd/4th June, with greatest eclipse around 1am.  Although by no means a rare event, the moon was high in the sky and early clouds had parted, and around half the group stayed up to see and photograph the eclipsed moon from the gardens of our hotel. This would complete what would be a hat-trick of celestial alignments in the space of just 16 days.

Of course the main event that we had travelled so far to see was the transit of Venus. Hawaii had been chosen because from there the entire event could be seen from start to end, and our viewing point was to be on Mauna Kea, a mountain which has become famous the clarity of its skies and giant telescopes on its summit.

On the morning of 5th June, we arrived at the Mauna Kea visitors centre, at an altitude of 2800m, on the southern flank of the mountain. The area around the visitors centre was filled with over a hundred telescopes ranging in size from small portable scopes to 16” reflectors on substantial mounts. Astronomers from all over the world were setting up with great anticipation and chatting with one another about their plans to observe and record the rare event.

The excitement was palpable and all eyes were fixed to eyepieces as the time of first contact (12:10 local time) approached. First one then another call went up from those able to detect the first indent in the sun’s disc. Around seventeen minutes later as second contact approached our eyes were focused on trying to see the “black drop” effect.

During the six hours and thirty four minutes from beginning to end people circulated and discussed their thoughts on the day. The visitors centre had a big screen showing the transit and also ran shuttle buses up Mauna Kea for those who wished to see the array of world class telescopes on the summit.

As the sun began to drop towards the horizon and third and forth contact approached, people began to move to one of the cinder cones opposite the centre to catch the end of the transit and the sunset. The air started to cool quickly and once the sun dropped below the horizon we all gathered our equipment and made our way to the minibuses to begin our descent to the coast. The journey back to our hotel in Kona was spent reflecting upon the success of the day and reviewing images taken by a very satisfied bunch of astronomers, many of whom had joined an elite club of those who had seen two Venus transits.