Late in the afternoon of June 5 there will be a rare astronomical event – a transit of Venus. How rare? The next occurrence will be on December 10-11, 2117; so, this is our last chance to see the transit of Venus in our lifetime.
What is a transit of Venus?
When Venus passes directly between earth and the sun, we see the distant planet as a small dot gliding slowly across the face of the sun. Historically, this rare alignment is how we measured the size of our solar system.
Transits of Venus occur in 243 year cycles with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. The last one was in June of 2004 but it was cloudy that day. Transits of Venus were used to help determine the distance between earth and sun and this upcoming one is expected to help refine techniques for the search for exo-planets.
If the sky is clear on Tuesday, June 5, Rey Center board member and resident amateur astronomer, Al Larsson, will set-up a telescope at the Curious George Cottage parking lot. You should plan to arrive by 6 p.m. to see the beginning, which starts at 6:03 p.m. We can continue to watch the process until sunset.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Al’s scope has a special solar filter so the sun may be viewed safely. Without the proper filter the sun’s rays could destroy the telescope and, more importantly, could instantly destroy your vision! Do not look at the sun during this event and in particular don’t look with binoculars or a telescope without special filtering.
Here is hoping for clear skies so that we can all witness this historic event.
This event is open to the public and FREE! Learn more at thereycenter.org or call 603-236-3308.
Photo found here.