My Space Box and Venus

Today Venus - our celestial neighbor and second coolest of the remaining non-huge planets - followed a path through our sky that carried it between Earth and the Sun.

Shown here sporting a wild mustache.

It did this during a super convenient time of day, too: 5:05 pm to sunset. My first attempt to see the show was to build myself a space box (i.e. a DIY pinhole viewer).

Because, in our house, everything has to use shoe boxes.

The shoe box thing was totally ineffective. I'm sure it works great for watching eclipses, but it was the chia seeds of Venus transit viewers.

My next attempt was to convert the West room of our house into a space box. I blacked out the window and put some pin-holed foil up. As expected, this made some nice dots that were visible a few feet from the window. Unfortunately, Venus is kinda small relative to the Sun and this plan worked about as well as the shoe box. I saw nothing. I also busted a curtain hanger thing.

Accepting that we needed some optics, we bundled up Greg and headed over to my brother-in-law's house. He has a telescope!

Easily the most dangerous way to look at the sun.

Whenever you see instructions for solar viewing with a telescope, the first step is to build an enclosure to prevent everybody from burning out their eye sockets. We skipped this obviously overprotective step. Then we spent the rest of the evening tackling kids who instinctively zipped over to stand on their head and look through the eye piece. Next time I think we'll mount an enclosure.

It worked! Click for bigger.

The image was actually much better than it looks on my cell phone camera. We saw Venus and sunspots. It was really cool. We watched until the Sun passed under the leafy neighborhood horizon.

And Greg was there!

In that last picture there's a runner at the far right. I realized too late that we should have yelled at her to come look at Venus. It was cool! I had a very enjoyable evening. Space missions are the best.