Venus to transit sun Tuesday
Jun 04, 2012 (Richmond Times-Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
RICHMOND, Va. -- As the sun sets in the Richmond area Tuesday, Venus will cross in front of it -- a phenomenon called a transit that will not happen again until 2117.
Though it is the last chance to view such a transit in our lifetime, watching the sun with the unaided eye could leave you blind. But thanks to the Richmond Astronomical Society and the Science Museum of Virginia, you'll have an opportunity to witness the event safely.
From 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the club will have special filtered telescopes available for viewing at the museum, which is sponsoring the free public event. The museum also will be selling special eclipse glasses.
If you can't make it to the museum, you can watch it on TimesDispatch.com, where the society will be streaming live video of the transit.
Should you choose to observe on your own, the club stresses that it is very important to use proper filtration to protect your eyes. Viewing the sun through anything but properly filtered equipment can cause blindness.
According to the magazine Sky & Telescope, a Venus transit happens only four times every 243 years, but unevenly -- 121 1/2 years, then 8 years, then 105 1/2 years, then 8 years again.
The last transit occurred in June 2004; after this week's transit, there won't be another until December 2117.
According to Jim Browder, president of the Richmond Astronomical Society, transits of Venus were used to calculate the size of our solar system.
Edmond Halley (1656-1742), for whom Halley's Comet is named, noted that if careful timings were made of Venus transits from widely separated locations on Earth, one could determine the distance to Venus and use that to determine the distance to the sun and the planets that were known at the time.
Such timings were during the transits of 1761 and 1769, improving our understanding of the size of our solar system that was further refined during the transits of 1874 and 1882.
Information on how to safely view the transit can be found at:
Science Museum of Virginia: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Richmond Astronomical Society will have special filtered telescopes set up for viewing.
Randolph-Macon College: The Keeble Observatory (on Patrick Street near the Copley Science Center) will open for public viewing of the transit at 5:30 p.m., weather permitting.
TimesDispatch.com: The society will be streaming live video of the transit.
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