RESULTS FROM THE TRANSIT OF VENUS EXPEDITION TO DARVAZA, TURKMENISTAN, JUNE 6, 2012
By Paul D. Maley, NASA Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society, Houston, TX USA
We observed the Transit of Venus from very close to this giant gas crater at Darvaza, 70m in diameter and 20m deep. On one evening I was looking at viewing predictions downwind from the gas fumes and a gust of wind pulled those predictions up into the air and down into the crater, never to be seen again. P.Maley photo.
The transit as photographed by Spencer Young. TeleVue Pronto, aperture 70mm, FL 480mm, 2.5X barlow. Filter: Coronado 60mm h-alpha. Camera: Nikon D7000, ISO 1250, 1/200 sec
The best Venus transit projection device: the Sun Spotter of Bob Hammarberg. Photo by P.Maley. Photos on this site are by P.Maley unless otherwise accredited.
RING OF FIRE EXPEDITIONS succeeded in observing the second and last Transit of Venus of the 21st century from near the remarkable gas crater at Darvaza, Turkmenistan. Our group of 16 persons plus guide and support staff set up camp about 200m south of the crater to take advantage of the prevailing wind and to enable all participants to observe from their tents. We had traveled for the previous 13 days from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan before arriving here.
The RING OF FIRE EXPEDITIONS group for the 2nd Transit of Venus. Left to right: Lynn Palmer, Paul Maley, Linda Pohlman, Mia Lindholm, Byron Braswell, Spencer Young, Betsy Vobach, Jeff Pohlman, Debbie Moran, Deb Hulse, Jimmie Lappin, Colleen Pinales, Bob Hulse, Dee Holisky, Bob Hammarberg. L. Pohlman photo.
On transit day skies were 100% clear with a wind from the east at 15 to 20 knots and temperatures in the low 80’s F. At sunrise the transit had been in progress for several hours so we were able to observe it from 5.38am local time to 9.53am which corresponded to last contact (whenVenus was no longer visible). Seeing conditions were quite good except near the horizon. Note that we had clear skies for 12 of the 14 days on our tour.
The Darvaza gas crater before dawn June 6. P.Maley photo.
Our camp at Darvaza just before sunrise June 6. The sun came up to the left of the hill where several members watched the sun before the rest could. C.Pinales describes being able to view the Transit naked eye for <30 seconds as it popped above the horizon at a depressed horizon angle.
A sand lizard, one of the few critters to be seen in the Karakum Desert. P.Maley photo.
In order to overcome the wind conditions toward the last two hours of transit viewing I had to place my Meade 2045D inside the tent. Prior to doing this, the wind actually blew the Baader filter material out from in front of the objective and I had to chase it down the road.
The following images are from Jeff Pohlman. They are the best of the best on this trip. The specifications of these excellent photos are:
The above image shot by Jeff does NOT show the Black Drop. His site was just adjacent to P.Maley. This suggests that the Black Drop is more instrumental than anything else and not necessarily a function of local seeing.
TRAVELS ALONG THE WAY
2 domes at the Tian Shan Observatory
Large Cassegrain scope inside one of the big domes. L. Palmer photo.
A telescope mount left out in the open. The sign asks as a favor to please not touch the scientific hardware. We certainly could not do any more damage by touching it than by leaving it out in the elements. L.Palmer photo.
Big Almaty lake. L. Palmer photo.
Kyrgyz presidential caravan on the way to work.
Changing of the guard. D. Holisky photo.
Along the roads you can see flocks of sheep.
Kujend outdoor market. D.Holisky photo.
Something else to buy?
Uzbek faces. D.Moran photo
Marionet. D.Moran photo.
Textiles being created in Uzbekistan. D.Moran photo.
An example of part of our lunch in Khiva
A late afternoon fashion show in Khiva
A big ‘crowd’ watching the minaret. B.Hulse photo.
The 15th century Ulug Beg Observatory in Samarkand. The remains of a quadrant are located in the underground structure.
City walls. L.Palmer photo.
Our Transit of venus 5k run was held in Khiva. Left to right: Betsy Vobach, Lynn Palmer, Paul Maley.
It is not uncommon to see several camels together moving along the highway from Darvaza to Ashgabat
Not an attempt to launch a rocket, but this is the Arch of Neutrality, one of the amazing buildings you can see in Ashgabat.
Should you wish to get married, this is the building you have to find!
Ministry of foreign affairs.