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ISS Transit Event 21st February 2004

On Saturday morning at 11:17hrs GMT, there were 4 transits of the Sun from in and around the Lisburn, Carryduff area in Northern Ireland. Progress-M48, Soyuz-TMA 3, and the ISS all transited the Sun and we think we did manage to see one of them. This was not an easy task but thankfully, the sky was fairly clear and the winds were light.

As the final 10 minutes approached, I called out, "10 minutes" to no reply from the gathering. "5 minutes"... "1 minute" and still there was silence. Progress M48 slipped past and only one person thought they saw it. As the last few seconds before the ISS and others transited, I called out "Watch out" and everyone seemed to hear me and be looking into their telescopes. There were laptops, digital cameras, MiniDV video cameras and also a piece of card for eyepiece projection. My focusing attempts were rewarded with a flash of a dot across the screen but then gone. It was probably the ISS as it was the biggest of all the satellites transiting though earlier, at 10:30hrs, a plane went right through the disk though the chance event was not captured. There was silence for a few minutes and gradually the realisation of the passing event kicked in. Most of the group missed the transits, some saw something and captured something but we are yet to see any frames of the satellites. Unfortunately, I had trouble focusing with the f/3.3 focal reducer on an f/10 SCT but I did get some help after the transit and found out that the focus distance was actually much shorter than when using the SCT normally. The event had been worthwhile as some had come and viewed the Sun for the first time; others were able to test out their capturing methods. Some left quickly, not taking the oppurtunity to capture the tight sunspot grouping.and steady seeing conditions.

The Sun was a beautiful disk with quite a number of small sunspots on the surface. I managed to capture this beautiful tight grouping below.

The full disk of the Sun was very sharply defined with nicely detailed spots, granulation and faculae as shown it this image below.

Courtesy SOHO satellite

Those who turned up were very welcome and many went away feeling more confident and focused :-) about their capturing techniques for next time. Here are some of the people at the observing site.

Hopefully next time, we will be better prepared and come earlier!!!

Clear Skies


Mark Stronge



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