Transit of Venus: 2012 June 6

It happened again! Just 8 years after the first transit of the 21st Century the second of the series occurred on 2012 June 6. I travelled to Shark Bay on the north west coast of Western Australia to stay with friends, to share the event with them, to photograph birds and to, hopefully, capture an iconic HD video of the transit - a dawning of a kind that wouldn't be witnessed again for 105 years (from this part of the world). Not a difficult project by any means.

Why Shark Bay? A few reasons: it is the most westerly part of Australia and the timing of the transit meant that the Sun would rise with the transit already in progress about an hour. At Monkey Mia, and unusually for this part of Western Australia, the Sun rises over a sea horizon. Lastly, weather prospects were expected to be favourable as it was the beginning of the dry season in this sub-tropical part of the country and there had been a stable sunny weather pattern for the past three months. It had also been an especially dry year with just 17mm of rain recorded to the beginning of June.

It all fell apart, unbelievably, on the afternoon of the 5th, the day before the transit. A low pressure region developed in the Indian Ocean off Perth which started to push moist air over the entire coast from north of Shark Bay to south of Perth. When I went to bed on the 5th it was to the sound of rain falling on the tin roof. At 2am the cloud forecast showed solid cloud over Shark Bay with the nearest accessible patches of partly clear sky  around Carnarvon 300km by road to the north. I delayed travelling until the morning to update on the forecast and to avoid travelling at night as there are major safety issues related to wildlife on the roads. This is what I awoke to on the morning of the 6th.

I headed off just after dawn in driving rain to drive the 128km to the North Western Coastal highway and turned left to head north towards Carnarvon to find that clear sky. I didn't find any, but at least the rain eventually stopped. At one hour past mid-transit, 42km south of Carnarvon, the solid cloud cover started to partially break up and the sun shone brightly, but briefly, through gaps in the low cloud. I set up off the road using bushes for shelter against the wind (and from the spray and draught of the road trains that regularly thundered past doing 110km/h) and took shots in the all-too-short breaks in the cloud for 25 mins until the solid cloud returned. Then I headed back to Shark Bay - a round trip of 600km.

I returned mid afternoon to find large breaks of blue sky and was pleased to learn that my friends had at least seen the last 45 mins of the transit through the solar filters I'd left behind just in case.


10:33am (0233UT) through a fleeting patch of almost clear sky in the otherwise dense cloud cover. Canon 5D II DSLR fitted with a 500mm f4 lens and 1.4X converter (effective fl = 700mm) and mylar solar filter; ISO 100, 1/1600s exposure at f5.6.
10:49am (0249UT) through high cloud in the otherwise dense cloud cover. Details as above.


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