Wow! Great crowd tonight at the MU Physics Building. The Transit of Venus was better publicized than the eclipse in May, and the crowd reflected it. The organizers were also prepared for a larger crowd. We got there a bit after 5 pm, and heard the crowd was huge upstairs, so we started with the line in the parking lot, and it only got longer after we got in. We were prepared with our solar glasses that we saved from the eclipse event in May. Good thing, too, as we heard they were already out of glasses for this event.

After viewing through the three telescopes at ground level, we took the elevator to the fifth floor to get to the observatory. When the doors opened, we were confronted by the observatory line and we followed it down and down and down…to the second floor level of the stairwell!  Overall, though, the lines kept moving. They had cake, too, but apparently it was served in the observatory long before we got there (probably about 5 pm, the advertised start time). In the observatory, the atmosphere was relaxed, and they did not mind us trying to take pictures through the telescope.

Finally, we went to the rooftop viewing area, where there were lots more telescopes and viewing devices with stepstools for the kids, including binoculars and a cardboard viewer box–the best for taking pics of this event. They also had glasses to loan to people as they went on the rooftop. On the rooftop, the lines were all short and we enjoyed looking through all the telescopes. When we finished and headed downstairs, there was a long line forming to get onto the roof.

Photo of Transit of Venus as viewed through a telescope.

Transit of Venus as viewed through a telescope.

Photo thoughts: Hold your solar glasses in front of the camera lens and point your camera at the Sun: This worked better with the eclipse, although the waviness in the mylar of the glasses made some cool effects with the Sun. I loved the telescopes with the filter that made the sun appear red. We did try some photos through the telescopes, but if you can’t get the pic quickly, it’s best to move on so the next person can view the event. The best photos (and easiest) were with the cardboard box viewer.

Photo of Prof. Angela Speck talk after sunset, explaining the historical significance of the Transit of Venus.

Prof. Angela Speck explaining the historical significance of the Transit of Venus.

We had another hour to wait for the presentation, and thankfully our kids managed to stay entertained. About 8:40 pm, Professor Angela Speck spoke for about 20 minutes about the Transit of Venus and its significance. The crowd filled in at the last minute, and about 15 kids were in attendance. Some items of note: Our location in Missouri can see the transit only about halfway across the Sun. (The transit continues, but we can’t see it after sunset.) The full transit was viewable in east Asia and Alaska. Historically, the transit was pivotal in our ability to calculate the size and distance of Venus.

Courtesy of Central Missouri Astronomical Association (CMAA), Laws Observatory is generally open on Wednesdays from 8-10 pm, weather permitting and excepting holidays.