NATCA Seen Around the World During Venus Transit
Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Venus Transit; Photo credit: NASA

On June 5, 2012, Venus passed in front of the Sun from the Earth’s perspective for the last time until the year 2117. The event, known as the Venus Transit, is the rarest known predictable astronomical event in our skies. The Venus Transit has been the source of many myths and legends, and has spawned many significant scientific and oceanic discoveries since the Sun was first observed through telescope over 300 years ago.

Stephen W. Ramsden (ZTL) and the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project (www.charliebates.org), sponsored nonprofit by the NATCA Charitable Foundation (NCF), were invited by team NASA EDGE to broadcast the event globally on NASA TV and the National Geographic Channel. Ramsden flew into Kona, Hawaii, and reached the summit of Mauna Kea (13,796 feet above sea level) the day before to acclimate to the low oxygen levels. The weather was brutal with 50 mph winds and frigid temperatures. The two stayed at the Keck Observatory Astronomers bunker at the 9,000 foot Moisture Sensitivity Level (MSL), and returned to the summit early the next morning for the show.

Ramsden and his team were responsible for setting up the special solar telescopes and cameras to broadcast this six-hour event around the world. Well over 120 million people watched online during Venus’s gentle glide across the face of the Sun.



Several thousand pairs of the special NATCA solar viewing glasses were handed out all over Hawaii and around the world for this event. Ramsden shipped out over 35,000 pairs to 17 countries from the USA to India to Norway for planned viewing events, so if you saw people looking at it on the news, there's a high chance they were wearing NATCA solar glasses.

“The Hawaiian natives were chanting tribal songs down at the Mauna Kea visitors center and you could hear them wafting up through the cloud layers all the way to the summit during the events,” said Ramsden. “I felt like I was completely isolated from humanity except that I was operating $300,000 worth of optical equipment and standing next to the largest observatories in the world.” 

Ramsden was so high up that he was required to wear special sunglasses and UV protective clothing and sunscreen at all times.

“I didn’t need the Oxygen tank thankfully and I was so proud to be wearing my NATCA patched shirt while giving out NATCA glasses all around,” said Ramsden.



Ramsden also appeared at the Southern California Astronomy Exposition in San Diego, C.A., on July 14 where he lectured on solar radiation and its effect on aviation safety and terrestrial technology.

Ramsden sees over 50,000 students per year with his free STEM education program and will have another large public appearance at Dragon*Con, a fantasy/science fiction convention in Atlanta, and the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo in Tucson, Ariz.

If you would like to support the group or get involved in community outreach in your neighborhood please visit www.solarastronomy.org.