Kepler was born on December 27, 1571. At age 20 he graduated from the University of Tuebingen and began teaching mathematics and astronomy in Gratz, capital of the Austrian province of Styria. One of his duties there was to publish an annual astronomical almanac. His almanacs were quite popular because of the accuracy of his predictions.
In his first almanac Kepler predicted a spell of extremely cold weather and an invasion by the Turks. In a letter six months later to his friend Michael Maestlin, Kepler joked about his predictions- “By the way, so far the predictions are proving correct. There is an unheard-of cold in our land. In the Alpine farms people die of the cold. It is reliably reported that when they arrive home and blow their noses, the noses fall off. As for the Turks, on January the first they devastated the whole country from Vienna to Neustadt, setting everything on fire and carrying off men and plunder.”
In 1629 Kepler was preparing a set of astronomical tables for the years 1629-1636 based on his new laws of planetary motions when he discovered that a transit of Venus would take place in 1631. Sadly, Kepler wasn’t able to observe his prediction. He died on November 15, 1630 a year before the transit.
It was Kepler’s mathematics that allowed later astronomers to calculate future planetary transits, including the one that took place on June 5th and 6th of 2012. On those days Venus crossed the face of the sun and I was there to photograph the event.
Photographing the sun is difficult and the proper filters are needed. However, I had none of those but I did have a welding hood handy. I adjusted my camera to restrict the amount of light hitting the sensor by cranking up the shutter speed to the max and stopping the aperture all the way down. These settings combined with the welding hood were still not enough to get a good image. So I jumped into a friend’s 2010 Ford F-250 and shot through the tinted back window. The tint and the hood decreased the amount of light just enough for me to get a reasonably good photo of the transit. I’m glad I made it work because that was the last transit of Venus for the 21st century. The next Venus transit will take place 104 years from now on December 10th and 11th in the year 2117. So, to all you photographers of the future- if you are there to shoot it (and this blog is still around)- good luck shooting the transit with your implanted Google Glasses camera. And if the glasses don't capture the transit correctly, try viewing it through an old fashioned welding hood.