Not Sci Fi, For Real

Not Sci Fi, For Real

You can either experience a great celestial event this Tuesday, June 5th, or you can wait for the next opportunity, in December 2117. Your choice: now or never.

Every 120 years, Venus eclipses the sun. It's technically an eclipse, because Venus will be between the sun and the earth, and it will prevent some sunlight from reaching us. However, don't expect a blackout.

The beauty of this celestial event is that it is a sure way for earthlings to sense the size of our galaxy and for scientists to measure the scope of the universe. It will take Venus about six hours to cross the sun, during which time you will see it as just a dot on the sun's surface.

Math teachers take notice: there are some great lesson plan opportunities regarding this historic event.

This is a big event, for several reasons. Here is a brief overview, straight from NASA:

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=144496931

It is important to remember that even though you want to see this planetary activity, YOU SHOULD NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE SUN. Not on Tuesday, not ever.

You can watch the event on your computer: several sites and social media outlets will cover it. Live coverage of the transit of Venus starts on June 5th at 5:45 p.m. EDT. Go to http://venustransit.nasa.gov/transitofvenus/ or to #venustransit on Twitter for more details.

You can also experience the event, live and in person, at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics right in our city. They invite us to see this last Venus transit of the 21st century on Tuesday starting at 6:00 p.m.

From http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/events/public_events.html

"In 2004 we were treated to a sunrise view of Venus crossing the disk of the sun. On June 5th, we will enjoy a sunset Venus transit. If you miss this one, you won't get another chance to see it until 2117 - and that's a very long time to wait. The Center for Astrophysics will hold a special rooftop viewing of the Venus transit beginning at 6:00 p.m. Attendees don't need to bring anything. We will offer filtered telescopes, solar projection, and a limited number of eclipse viewer glasses. No reservations are required. The transit will be visible from 6:03 until the sun sets at 8:19. CfA parking lots will be open to the public at 5:00. Parking is available at 60 Garden Street, 160 Concord Avenue, and the lot on Bond Street between Garden Street and Concord Avenue. If weather is inclement, we will still show the transit via webcast in Phillips Auditorium."

(photo by S Segat)