May 31, 2012
Astronomers Abuzz Over June 5 Celestial Event
The weather wasn’t very cooperative for the partial eclipse of the sun on May 20, but Victorians get a second chance at celestial theatre on June 5, when the planet Venus will pass directly between the sun and the Earth in what astronomers call a “transit of Venus.” During this rare spectacle—which won’t occur again until 2117—Venus appears as a small black dot moving slowly across the face of the sun. “It may not sound exciting until you remember that Venus is a planet the size of the Earth, but 40 million kilometres away,” says UVic astronomy instructor Russ Robb.
Only six transits of Venus have been recorded since the first telescopes were invented in the 1600s, and they typically generate quite a buzz in the global astronomy community. “Historically, transits were a very useful way to determine the distance from the Earth to the sun,” says UVic astronomer Dr. Chris Pritchet. “A huge amount of effort went into observing them in the 17th and 18th centuries.” Today, transits provide a unique opportunity to develop and test new techniques for detecting new planets outside our solar system, and for learning more about Venus itself. Transits are also pretty cool to see—with the right equipment.
Proper eye protection is needed for viewing, because staring directly at the sun can cause eye damage in seconds. On the afternoon of June 5, the UVic Observatory on the roof of the science building is open to the public so people can safely view the transit through special solar filters and telescopes.
What: Safe viewing of the 2012 “Transit of Venus”
Where: Bob Wright Centre, fifth floor (use main lobby elevator, east side)
When: Tuesday, June 5 from 3–9 p.m.
Venus begins its transit across the northeast quadrant of the sun at 3:06 p.m.
The transit midpoint will be at 6:27 p.m.
The transit ends after the sun has set at 9:48 p.m.
Campus maps: www.uvic.ca/visitors/explore/maps.
Closest parking is Lot #1. Parking rates apply.
Space restricted to 100 visitors. All ages and levels of astronomical knowledge are welcome.
Russ Robb (Physics and Astronomy) at 250-721-7750 or email@example.com
Dr. Chris Pritchet (Physics and Astronomy) at 250-721-7744 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Valerie Shore (UVic Communications) at 250-721-7641 or email@example.com
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