Venus watch

The Eddington Astronomical Society in Kendal arranged a public viewing of the planet Venus in Kendal’s Abbot Hall park for tonight as part of the International Year of Astronomy. Venus is a well known sight in the night sky, though many people won’t realise what they are looking at. As the planet is close enough to the Sun and the Earth to be reflecting brightly at dawn or dusk, but not so close as to set immediately with the Sun, it shines as either the first ‘star’ of dusk or the last ‘star’ of dawn, depending on whether the planet’s position is such that it is in front of the rising Sun or behind the setting Sun. This gives Venus its names of The Morning Star and the Evening star. But of course, it is no star, it is a planet.

Located between the Sun and the orbit of the Earth, and between the orbits of the Earth and Mercury, Venus is the second largest of the terrestrial planets. Being inside the orbit of the Earth, and in similarity to Mercury, Venus is able to show it’s dark side to the Earth (as it passes between us and the Sun). All the outer planets only show a mostly illuminated disk. As a result, Venus seen through a small telescope or binoculars will show phases like the Moon. This can be seen from all over the world and just requires Venus to not be between us and the Sun, or on the other side of the Sun.

Unfortunately, tonight something else was between us and Venus, the fluffy menaces themselves, clouds. A glimpse of the planet shining brightly and faithfully occurred partway through the 45 minutes the audience waited enraptured for, but sadly the decision was made to call the thing off. As Stuart Atkinson dismantled the telescope brought for the occasion, the planet made another appearance, shining brighter than before, but not brightly enough or long enough to put everything together once more. Dissapointed children were hustled away by their parents as an object more than 12,000 km across was obscured by a few well placed drops of water, such is the nature of public (and private) astronomical viewing events.

As I walked home up the hill, watching the by now very bright and long shining planet in the sky, my only comfort asides from the public interest from those who had turned up and those passing who stopped for a chat, was that I had taken a few interesting photographs, some including long exposures that showed clouds and astronomers round the telescope and a group picture. Sadly, I activated the browser, opened up the blog and flickr to get everything uploaded and for only the second time in the two years I’d had the admittedly third hand camera, the photographs were corrupted. Even the one I had risked life and dark adaption (of the others) to use flash on. One of the Venus watch survived, two of a recent family outing also made it, but ten other photographs have now vanished behind clouds of their own.

Blurry astronomers around a telescope for Venus Watch

Blurry astronomers around a telescope for Venus Watch

Lets hope the skies clear later on and the comet rides to the rescue.

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3 responses to “Venus watch

  1. Jamir Ahmed

    Hi there
    I have got a telescope ‘VisionKing 90500’ telescope. I honestly dont know how to use it. I have interest in watching solar system. Is there any way i can get any help on that from you? I am from bangladesh and in winter our sky is always clear and with naked eye we can watch a lot of stars most of the time. If there is any information that will help to view sky with my telescope, please refer me that. Thank you.

    • As VisionKing is a China based company, there’s not too much information out there about it, but looking at the picture here, it looks like a refracting telescope on an alt-az base. At the left hand side of the picture is the eyepiece holder. To alter the magnification, alter it there, either by changing the eyepiece (ones with smaller numbers have greater magnification) or by twisting something. The prism at the bottom of the eyepiece just allows the eyepiece to point upwards when the telescope is at an awkward angle. When you look through the telescope, it will initially be out of focus (stars etc are blurry if they can be seen at all). The two wheels on the telescope itself, just before the white bit, are the focusing wheels. Turn these slowly until the stars become sharp. Changing eyepieces will mean changing the focus each time. The wheels on stalks coming off the tripod I assume are clamps. Turn them one way and you’ll be free to move the telescope either up and down (altitude) or round the points of the compass (azimuth), turn them the other way and the telescope will stay in the position it is in to allow you to view through it. To know where to look for things, there are computer programs like Stellarium that will tell you where things are (search for ‘planetarium programs’ to find others, there’s lots of free ones). It doesn’t look like it has a finder scope, so you’ll have to align it by eye (looking over the telescope and occasionally through it as you move it towards where ever you’re looking).

      Hope that helps.

  2. Pingback: Another washout! « Where the Sun hits the sky

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