On June 5th, 2012 Astronomy Live!, along with UCLA Undergraduate Astronomy Society (UAS) and the Earth and Space Sciences (ESS) department, hosted a viewing of Venus transiting in front of the Sun for the last time this century! Hundreds of people joined us during the transit, which was visible from about 3 pm until sunset. Visitors included current students, staff and faculty, alumni, and local astronomy fans.
Along with letting the public see an incredibly rare astronomical event, we also measured the point of second contact (when Venus is first entirely in front of the Sun) in a global effort to re-measure the distance to the Sun! Even though it is already well-measured, working with people all over the world is a great reminder of how collaborative and interconnected the astronomy world is. You can find more about how it was done at this site, made by former member of Astronomy Live! and current post-doc at Universidad de Chile, David Rodriguez. Groups all over the world measured the second and third contact points, and using that information we derived a distance to the Sun of 151 +/- 20 million kilometers, almost exactly the real value of 152.25 million kilometers!
In addition to our standard H-alpha telescopes and visible light telescopes, we also had two
sunspotters and a projection telescope, which definitely helped out with all the visitors we had!
You can see all the photos here. Thanks for everyone who came out, we had a great time with you!
For more information about the transit, see these pages:
ESS information page
Astrobites - Watching the transit of Venus: Observations of the transit at universities all over the country.
American Museum of Natural History blog
Before the transit
After the transit, with measurements