Safely See the Sun

Next June 5 (Tuesday), until sunset in North America and June 6 in Ireland after sunrise, you can see Venus cross in front of the sun. She only does this twice every 113 years.I have some small pieces of very flat (6 mm float glass) front surface reflectors to give away. The diagrams below show to easily set up the “Pinhead Projector” I developed 18 years ago when Toledo had an annular eclipse.  Keith used it successfully the other day in Osaka. (see his blog listed above).


In practice I set a 25 mm (1 inch) square of mirror in Plasticene and adjust it to reflect a sun spot deep into a dark room. When set up, I then put a washer over the mirror to reduce the aperture.  The smaller the hole, the shaper the image but it also becomes less bright and so needs a darker room. Below shows Hermes watching the distant image, and wondering, with the washer/mirror/Plasticene (green) pinhead projector in the bottom of the picture.

The photo at the top of the blog is a quick, coarse shot showing tree branches half covering the sun. It’s fun to watch them move in the wind, and it’s a good test of the system.

When I tuned the setup by masking the mirror with a 5 mm (5/16″) dia opening I got the sharper 100 mm (4 inch) dia image below of leaf and  branch in front of the sun, on the wall of a dark room, 13 m (40 ft) away from the pinhead projector, with no window and the door just opened enough to admit the beam of light.



Physics Today tells the story how in 1760 Mikhail Lomonosov was the first to ever observe that Venus has an atmosphere:

I don’t expect myPinhead Projector to have enough resolution to show that aureole, but it did project a great 400 mm dia annular solar eclipse image on the far wall of an empty, dark warehouse many years ago when I first tried it.

I have a few pieces of the flat front surface (80% reflection) to give away. Tell me very briefly why you’d like a small piece of the mirror and I’ll try to get one to you (while supplies last) in time for Venus Transit.

There is a good website on the topic at

Infrequent Fliers and Various Window Views

When the worker bee hatches she does nursery duty before progressing to guard duty at the entrance:

However they failed to stop the Carpenter Bee (big as a Bumble Bee) from almost drilling a 19 mm (3/4″) dia hole in the top honey box.

This is the view (thanks to Google) the honey bees inside would have had as Carpenter almost got through but obviously thought better when sighting the many honey frame workers, on the defensive no doubt (I’d love to have witnessed it):

I did have other window views:

Flying in Phoenix earlier this month was dry, turbulent and with lightning as soon as we entered this heavy dust cloud:

Other Arizona views were very dry:

I had the impression that thin meandering muddy river was responsible for the faint line of cloud.

A dammed river was the only other sign of water:

Landing in San Francisco once again provided that great view of the colorful old salt flats at the South end of the Bay:

Driving home from Detroit I saw a strange dark whispy cloud over the edge of Lake Erie:

I think that is the Mayfly, which I have seen close up before.

When I got home one was waiting for me on the window – a happy sign of summer coming:

Another flier found on my unused x-country ski trail was this beautiful Black Swallowtail butterfly:

The big attaction this month is the many bugs at Magee Marsh where migrating Warblers of many varieties stop to eat before crossing Lake Erie on their way North.  The birds are tired and hungry. Amazingly you can be close enough to even take cell phone photos despite the many bird watchers:

And just as though prompted by Darrel’s recent question as to what happened to the larva photo I had put in the blog last June, the bug, which had been in a pupa state encased in wood shavings for nearly a year, finally emerged. Now I need to know its name (it’s about 20 mm (7/8″) long)???:

The beetle was very glad to quickly scuttle back into the crack in the Catalpa tree where I’d first found it, after living for the last year and a half in a jar of damp wood particles.

Spring Arrivals

Two weeks ago (April 23) we had the first batch of ducklings two of goslings, and a new moon. The goslings run under mother’s wings when the hawk is near. And the bees have doubled their accommodations The new moon had bright Venus (not in the picture below) close by.  It’s fun to look at the sky and think where we are in the solar system in three dimensional terms. When the Sun is down it is really only behind the Earth. Look at the moon and it will “Point at the Sun”.

Venus too can be seen in her varying positions in the Western evening sky or the Eastern early morning sky. With a little telescope you can see a large thin bright crescent when she is close to us, or when on the other side of the sun she appears to be very small (about 1/3 the size when close) and full ; when she is the highest in the evening sky, she is at the same distance from us as the sun is from us, she looks like a 1/4 moon, half in shadow, and of intermediate size. I am still trying to decide which of the 3 is the brightest? Another way of sensing our place in the dynamic solar system is to watch a sunset and think not of the sun setting but of Earth rapidly rotating with the sun stationary and our horizon rising up in front of the sun (don’t fall over backwards).