First impressions from Floda31


This is the fourth post of Suzanne’s mission to Sweden for the Transit of Venus. The previous post is here.

I arrived at Umea airport around 4pm, where I met up with the other stragglers – most of the other participants arrived last night or this morning. Abby picked us up and took us straight to Umevatoriet, which is as much a public science education centre as an observatory. There we were given a chance to look at the Sun in Halpha (though it clouded up by the time I got there), treated to a truly excellent planetarium show, and given a chance to weigh ourselves on Mars, Venus, and the Sun:

We also tested our mental skills in the centre’s current exhibition of Arabic mathematical puzzles (complete with desert setting) and I got a chance to meet up with Bastien and try out the mount he kindly offered to lend me – which works like a dream.

After a supermarket stop to stock up, we headed off into the wilderness – an hour’s drive on empty roads through trees, lakes, and more trees, passing the occasional red wooden house … and a pair or rather flegmatic moose. The site is a wide open field, with a number of small wooden cabins and outbuildings, in which we are staying, dotted around the outside, and beyond… forest, as far as the eye can see. It’s 00.30 am, and just bright enough to read outside.

There are several people out in the field with tripods doing a much better job than I of capturing the spectacular moon on camera. Everyone is by the bonfire, trying to keep warm whilst getting to know everyone else, and enjoying the peace and quiet. On the practical side: compost toilet, outdoor bath (heated by a woodstove), and barbecued Swedish meatballs. What more could you ask for?

Now all we need is clear weather. Tonight it’s cold but only a little hazy, but the forecast for the next few days is uncertain. On the programme tomorrow: morning swim (!) in the nearby lake, work on completion of the Venus transit monument, and a few talks – including one Thijs de Haas, a retired physicist who is the father of one of the owners, on the history of the Venus transits, and one by me on its implications for modern science.


Feature Image: Scale calibrated to weights on Mars, from a sicence exhibit at the Umevatoriet observatory. [Photo Suzanne Aigrain].


About Author

I work on the detection of extrasolar planets (planets outside the solar system) via the transit method, and on the exploration of the time domain in astrophysics in general. I am particularly interested in finding and studying small (terrestrial, or even Earth-like) planets, and young planets (to understand how they form, and how their early evolution is influenced by their environment).