The last transit of Venus occurred in June of 2004, pre-ASEM. As I recall, Jim Roe traveled to Ohio to view it, and I stayed here to barely catch around 15 minutes worth, shortly after sunrise. There wasn't a good place to observe, much less to share the views with others. It was a morning event, and the temperature was over 90 degrees right at sunrise. I used my old 4.25" reflector and did solar projection, capturing a few images with my 1.2 megabyte digital camera.
What a contrast this event was! The park rangers counted over 800 visitors. I think that we had 10 scopes and one mounted set of binos, plus at least one walk-around set. Equipment operators included: John Sgouros, Marv Stewart, Steve Boerner, Mike Scalion, Amy White, Chuck Simms, David Lloyd, Stacey Thater, Larry Walton, Tom Richards and Richard Kamp. Many other members were seen there as well, and may have brought equipment or helped out, including Bill and Florrie Sheehy, Carla Kamp, John Furlong, David and Donna Reed, Dan Crowson, Rodney Manzanga, Larry Williams, Mike Clemente and others ? Equipment included refractors, SCTs, binos and dobs all with white light filters or projection, as well as PSTs and Lunt Ha scopes. It was busy and hectic and I did a terrible job of getting around to say hello. At least two scopes were manned by non-members. One of which was from Chicago and the other was from Atlanta.
Broemmelsiek drew them from near and far.
I had arrived around 3:20, and was still setting up around an hour later while the visitors started to swell. I showed them views of the Sun, with sunspots, until the moment of first contact. I warned them that our folks might be a little 'selfish' with our scopes around the time of first contact, and I was glad to hear them reply that we should be!
Roughly 30 minutes later, first contact was shouted out, and there were lines of viewers from then until nearly sunset, almost non-stop. I took a quick head count at first contact, and there were over 100 on the site at that time.
There were a lot of first-time visitors to the park, and nearly all of them were surprised to hear that we did this for free almost every Friday night. It is likely that our Friday Night Open Houses will be busier than usual for the next several weeks. Handouts and flyers, as well as Transit Observing Certificates, were moving like hotcakes. The 35 remaining Eclipse Sunglasses were gone in a flash. Despite what I'd read, I could distinctly see the dot of Venus at 1x (corrected vision).
The weather was very kind, temps in the mid-80's and very few clouds. Some of us had electric fans, but it wasn't all too bad to begin with. The park rangers had seen the same media frenzy that we had, and had mowed extra parking spaces as well as a nice clear walking path from the parking area just to our east. Five park rangers helped with traffic and parking, and were greatly appreciated. It would have been a real mess without them.
Just two days before, the weather forecast was half-way crummy and there was not much going on with the media. It was amazing to me how fast things changed, and I'm glad that we (and the Parks department) were prepared.
Oh, and Venus was GREAT too! The round black dot was noticeably superior to the crop of sunspots, of which there were several good sets. The trees to our west put an end to our fun a little earlier than sunset, around 8:10pm instead of 8:24pm. A few visitors came driving thru to talk to us as we were packing up. I encouraged them to come back on Friday night.
A few folks brought their own equipment. Some may show up at a FNOH, but I tried to emphasize that they try out our Beginner's meeting first, since there would be more time to help out with their scopes.
It is very likely that this was the largest single event for ASEM in our history. We managed to stay on top of things without over-hyping this event too early - a thing which can somewhat 'back-fire' when the clouds roll in. There is no doubt that the clear weather helped to spring-board this event.
There won't be another Venus transit until 2117, but there will be a Mercury transit on May 9, 2016, and a full solar eclipse here on August 21, 2017. We probably should start planning for them soon!