I did watch the transit but not any of the coverage on TV or on the web. And the news flow today from it is vast - too much for meaningful tracking. I put up two photos here. The left is from the little El Dorado Observatory in the Sierra Foothills of California's gold country in white light, as circulated by the Sacramento Bee; That's how it looked from here in Berkeley too. The right is from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite in ultraviolet and found at Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy site. Boy, top-notch equipment makes things look different.
But we received from David Chandler, MIT public affairs man and longtime astronomy writer (many years at Boston Globe), his reaction to NASA's public feed on the transit. He also already posted this to the NASW-talk chat line for members of the National Assoc. of Science Writers. Did anybody else see that, agree or disagree with Chandler's scathing rendition? Here is his message:
Did anyone else try to watch NASA's live feed on the transit of Venus
yesterday? I don't know if this awful drivel has been archived anywhere, but
for anyone who teaches classes on science communication, or who teaches
scientists how to communicate with the public, it could be a useful case
study on how to do everything as badly, amateurishly, and incompetently as
It was actually a golden opportunity to do some good communicating with the
public -- more than 2 million people watched (maybe much more), and there
were at least 100,000 people online at any given moment, and they were
listening to useless, boring drivel that made my teeth itch. It's not like
NASA couldn't afford to hire a competent journalist to do the interviewing,
or be able to find scientists who have some clue about how to communicate
with the public. Why didn't they?
(one small example -- someone called in to ask what the other black dots on
the sun were. The scientists, who obviously couldn't even see the image,
weren't even able to give the rudimentary answer "sunspots." Sheesh!! How
long did they have to prepare for this?)
It was sort of interesting to watch the real-time monitor of how many people
were online. Whenever they just showed the sun and stopped talking, the
numbers would go up, but whenever they cut to the people talking, the
Did anyone else have the misfortune to see any of this? / David Chandler
Oh heck, the eyes fell on AP's roundup. It's a perfect example of such a thing, interplanetary in scope.
- Oskar Garcia: Silhouetted Venus reminder of solar system's size ;
As for my seeing it, it was a fine thing. With solar filters mounted on our binoculars, Mrs. Tracker and I ogled the Sphere of Venus along with the prominent sunspots from the front yard. Our neighbor Dirk came by and looked at it as well. Then I took the glasses to a restaurant on Solano Ave, King Tsin, for dinner with science writer friends Wallace Ravven and Gordy Slack. They got a look from the sidewalk there. I handed the glasses to the friendly waiter who went out and showed the view to several passersby. Gordy reported that he'd just been to Sproul Plaza on the Cal campus where astro professors Gibor Basri and Geoff Marcy - with Alex Fillippenko providing hotos from Hawaii - led the throngs in looking through a brace of telescopes. At least one had a red filter (Hydrogen-Alpha?) that showed solar prominences in the backdrop to Venus's promenade. (Preceding corrected - earlier versions said Fillippenko was at Sproul Plaza too.) Skies were blue, everybody happy.
- Charlie Petit