Astronomers across the North-East thwarted by cloud - but have fun!

22 June 2012

There was an unpromising forecast for Wednesday 6 June, nevertheless many groups of North-East astronomers braved the elements to attempt to catch a view of the rare transit of Venus.

Institute of Physics News

The BBC featured coverage from Sunderland in their national breakfast bulletins, as well as on local TV and radio.  

Video and audio edits from the coverage can be found on our Facebook page, at

Despite the obvious disappointment the regions’ astronomers remain upbeat.  There are noctilucent clouds and meteor showers anticipated in the next few months.

At the Sunderland Astronomical Society and IOP event, IOP member Elizabeth Lawson, said: “Several members of the North East Branch crawled out of bed at 3.30am to head to the cliff top in Roker. Rain was pouring and waves were crashing but still about twenty people waited, patiently hoping that there would be a break in the cloud and they would have that once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing Venus pass across the sun.  Most of us had been here before, a blanket of cloud having obscured the sun in this region eight years ago.  But, as the rain trickled down necks and soaked through shoes in England, we watched the transit via the clear skies of Hawaii from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii using a smart-phone.”  

Paul Meade, from the Sunderland Astronomical Society was positive despite the weather: “It was completely clouded out. It was a really good turn-out and there was a slight glint on the horizon at first, but it just got steadily worse and, unfortunately, we missed it.”

Also in our region, Northumberland Astronomical Society held a members event at Druridge Bay.  Emma-Jane Maddison said: “On the morning of the transit, 26 of us turned up to stand in the rain for four hours, we had a great time playing on the beach then had a special commiserative fry-up breakfast/supper then went to bed.  We cheered when the report from Sunderland came on the TV!”  

Cleveland and Darlington Astronomical Society’s Wynyard Planetarium and Observatory also ran a transit event. 

Ed Restall praised the turnout: “Amazingly,  40+ members of the public turned out at that small hour, despite the hopeless  weather and stayed around to the bitter end watching on our dome (in Ca & H-alpha, from Hawaii & Australia) and waited to see it there was the tiniest chance of seeing it with their own eyes through one of the 7 filtered telescopes (ranging from white-light, 1000 Oaks, H-alpha & projection) we had set up & ready to go.  I think they all enjoyed the tea, coffee and communal "watching" rather than observing experience.  Watching & sharing it as it happens with equally enthusiastic people certainly beats  sitting and watching it on your own computer at home and definitely makes the 4am start worthwhile.”  

Finally, Kielder Observatory tweeted: 

For up to date information about astronomical events and links to local astronomy societies, visit the Branch’s pages on Facebook or Twitter @IOPNorthEast.