European Science & Technology Week 2004Visit the websites of the VT-2004 organisers
European Southern Observatory (ESO)European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE) Observatoire de ParisInstitut de Mécanique Céleste et de Calcul des Éphémérides (IMCCE)Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

The Venus Transit 2004

... Brandys Meeting with Amateur Astronomers


Summary of Meeting

The VT-2004 programme reached one of its highlights so far during the past weekend: From May 7-9, about 40 amateur astronomers from most European countries met at the historical castle in Brandys nad Labem near Prague, Czech Republik. A main purpose of the meeting was to exchange information about the numerous activities now underway in many places all over Europe for the Venus Transit by amateur astronomers, to make the extensive resources of this public educational programme more accessible to them and at the same time to stimulate the very valuable contributions they can give to the programme. The site of the meeting had a special significance for the participants: the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe was here in 1599-1600.

The importance of this symposium was impressively underlined during the opening ceremony which was attended by high-ranking officials, including Prof. Helena Illnerova, President of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republik, Ing. Jan Talir, representative of the ministry of Education of the Czech Republik, Ing. Josef Zieleniec, senator of the Czech Parliament, and Prof. Jan Palous, director of the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. The fact that the international, EC-supported VT-2004 astronomy meeting was held just a few days after the accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union was seen as a strong symbol of a continuing, extremely welcome integration process.

A welcoming reception by the Mayor of the town of Brandys, Ing. Daniel Prochazka on Friday evening as well as a very well attended press conference with representatives of many Czech journals and TV stations further proved that the VT-2004 programme has become highly regarded, also outside of the circles of astronomers and teachers who are directly involved in the preparations of this rare celestrial event now due in just 4 weeks. Moreover, members of the International Steering Committee were asked to give individual interviews, hereunder a live appearance in the evening news on Channel 1 of Czech TV!

As the earlier preparatory VT-2004 meeetings with teachers, media representatives and National Node staff, also this one, with some of the most experienced and progressive amateur astronomers in Europe, proved very fruitful for all participants. A well organised programme included extensive coverage of the Venus Transit from the astronomical, historical and observational points of view, with background talks on extrasolar planets and an overview of the exploration of our solar system by European scientists.

On the side of the amateurs it became apparent that an substantial number of related activities in all countries is in preparation, ranging from telescopic observing sessions in remote villages in Finland to an extensive public happening for thousands of visitors in the Norwegian capital. Extensive national networks of amateur associations are collaborating in France, Italy and elsewhere, and many groups of observers from Portugal to Bulgaria also plan to let the world participate in their programmes through live coverage broadcast over the internet.

Advanced amateurs now possess equipment that rival that of some professional observatories. Many are superb, experienced observers and will be able to furnish extensive and detailed images in several optical filters, enhancing different phenomena on the Sun. Much useful advice was circulated at the meeting on the kind of information desired by amateur astronomers as well as their possibilities for interacting with the local public. The problem of attempting to do valid timings of the Venus contacts with the solar limb while handling a public show is not a trivial one, nor is obvious what to do in case of clouds moving in over a crowd of unhappy spectators!

Most impressive and promising was the genuine cooperative spirit that quickly manifested itself across all boundaries of nationality and language and many new contacts will now help participants to better prepare for the upcoming event. A delightful social programme included a visit to the house of the famous Czech astronomer Antonin Becvar, an inspiredly guided tour through the renaissance rooms of the Brandys Castle, as well as a very succesful visit to Ondrejov Observatory (see the photo) - further contributing to the excellent atmosphere and highly conducive to personal contacts between the participants.

List of Files

A large number of presentations were made at the meeting, including overview talks by members of the International Steering Committee and reports by the amateur participants. Some of these are available here, more will be added as they are delivered:

Photos from the meeting

Many photos were taken by the participants during the meeting. Some of them are displayed at the website of the Czech organisers.