June 5, 2012
Sometimes you just need to get around a group of geeks and experts to have a lot of fun with science. June 5, 2012, was one of those days.
The Charlie Elliott Chapter of the Atlanta Astronomy Club hosted a number of viewing spots in and around Gwinnett County on Tuesday to help share a little you-won't-see-this-again science with locals. I have been to a few of the club's meetings and really loved the presentations by people who know a LOT more than I do, and I also appreciate members' willingness to let others use their awesome equipment to view the sky.
Venus' transit of the Sun on Tuesday was something you won't be able to see again until 2117. If you read this today and are around to see the next one, please come back to 2012 and let me know what your longevity secret is. Plus buy me a Grays Sports Almanac. I hear those can come in handy.
Steve Siedentop of the Charlie Elliott Chapter took the following photo using his telescope, a solar filter and a DSLR camera.
While helping Steve take this picture with assistance from an Android tablet, we saw a plane fly in front of the Sun. I wish someone could have accidentally captured that shot. It just zipped by on the tablet screen to the amazement of the few of us looking into a scope who saw it. That would've been National Geographic cover material!
I was able to take this picture using my iPhone 4S and Steve's other telescope, which he fitted with a special eyepiece and homemade contraption to allow viewing of the transit on a latex surface.
There were probably about 100 people at the event at Bay Creek Park near Grayson, including my mom, who all seemed to be thrilled at seeing this event with such great equipment. People of all ages came, from young children to grandmothers. It took some patience for the clouds to go away, but I think everybody was thrilled with the show.
So many opportunities like this help get kids of all ages excited about science. A couple of my mom's former students where she was a counselor went on to become astronauts. One of them piloted Discovery's final flight.
It's events like this that make me think our country has some good days ahead of it. Once we have private companies launching astronauts into space for research and tourism and add NASA's Space Launch System to send people where we have literally never been before, science might just get back on the front page more often as it did during the space race of the 1960s. All of our lives have been made better by technology and science, in large and small ways.
We don't need to be cutting scientific funding, as the DeKalb County School District wants to do with the Fernbank Science Center -- one of the other local sites for the Venus transit viewing Tuesday. But apparently the budget ax doesn't swing wide enough to cut a superintendent's chief of staff job opening .
Science is cool. Science is fun. Drop by a meeting of the AAC Charlie Elliott Chapter in Mansfield and see what you can learn. You might get inspired to choose another career or inspire a youngster you know to do something great. I know it has given me a better appreciation for what I see in the sky and everything else past our solar system. The next meeting is June 16 at 5 p.m. and involves free food! Visit http://www.ceastronomy.org for more information. I hope to see you there, and I hope you end up learning more about science.