It is a celestial event of heavenly proportions and it can only be seen twice every 100 years.
Known as the transit of Venus, astronomers will be watching with great anticipation as the planet moves across the face of the Sun. On Tuesday, June 5, from 6pm onward, Venus will start the seven hour journey. It is a phenomenon that will not be visible again until well into the next century.
To celebrate, staff at the York University Astronomical Observatory will be hosting a free public viewing. Telescopes equipped with filters to protect eyes and transit “observing” glasses will be made available to anyone interested in seeing this rare astronomical event. The viewing begins Tuesday at 5:30pm and will continue until sunset.
The last transit of Venus across the face of the Sun took place in 2004. Tonight’s transit is part of a pair of events that occur once every 100 years.
Venus transits are historically of great scientific importance as they were used to gain the first realistic estimates of the size of the Solar System. Observations of the 1639 transit, combined with the principle of parallax, provided an estimate of the distance between the Sun and the Earth that was more accurate than any other up to that time. In addition, tonight’s transit of Venus will provide scientists with a number of other research opportunities, particularly the refinement of techniques to be used in the search for exoplanets.
A transit of Venus can be safely observed by taking the same precautions used to watch the partial phases of a solar eclipse. Looking at the Sun without appropriate eye protection can quickly cause serious and often permanent eye damage.
Viewing of the transit of Venus can be done from the safety of the main Observatory domes (attached to the north-west corner of the Petrie Science & Engineering Building on the Keele campus) as well as with the guidance of trained astronomers who will be present in the Chemistry-Life Sciences Building courtyard. A live broadcast of the event will also be delivered from the Observatory telescopes and can be found by clicking here.
The York Observatory is a hands-on teaching facility that supports undergraduate and graduate astronomy courses at the University. The Observatory staff regularly offer public viewing and information events, group tours, online public viewing, a radio show and more.
For more information, visit the York Observatory website.