Emporia State providing opportunity to view rare astronomical event

May 31, 2012

When the planet Venus crosses in front of the sun on June 5 — an event that won’t be repeated for another 105 years — Emporia State University physical science faculty will be on hand to help the public view and understand the event.

Venus is a black dot against the golden sun during the 2004 transit of Venus.Called the transit of Venus, the event begins about 5:10 p.m. Tuesday, June 5 and continues for six hours. During that time, the planet Venus will pass between Earth and the sun. Venus will look like a black dot as it passes across the much larger golden sun — a perfect black-and-gold event for Emporia State’s Hornet Nation.

Locally, the transit will only be visible until about 8 p.m. when the sun will be blocked by trees and buildings as it heads toward sunset. Just like watching a solar eclipse, it is important that viewers not look directly at the sun. Of course, all viewing is subject to clear skies that night.

“We have the proper measures for viewing this,” said Dr. DeWayne Backhus, professor and chair emeritus in the Department of Physical Sciences. “We would be remiss if we didn’t invite the Emporia community to observe.”

From 5 until about 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5, those wanting to view the transit can gather around sunspotter projection devices on the ground west of Cram Science Hall. Others can view through telescopes with appropriate filters from the roof of Cram.

In addition, Backhus will present a PowerPoint about the Venus transit twice — at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. — in Room 123 of Cram Science Hall. Backhus will present the PowerPoint as schedule even if the weather doesn't allow viewing of the transit.

Those attending the transit of Venus are asked to enter through the southwest door of Cram, which is on the Merchant Street side and has ramps up to the entrance. Just inside the lobby is a stairway to reach the roof. Room 123 is just off the lobby.

The transit of Venus regularly occurs in two cycles eight years apart. Then the cycle doesn’t repeat for more than a century. The last Venus transit was in 2004. The next will be in 2117.

Backhus explained the rarity of the event by noting that the telescope was invited in 1609 and first used in 1610. Since then, there have been just seven Venus transits.

Next week’s event is part of a cluster of astronomical events during 2012. On May 5, a “super moon” was visible. A super moon, actually called a “perigee moon,” occurs when a full moon falls as the moon’s oval orbit takes it as close to Earth as possible.

On May 20, an annular solar eclipse was visible in the southwest United States. Emporia was on the edge of the viewing path and did not see a full eclipse.

And on Monday, June 4, a partial lunar eclipse could be visible beginning at about 5 a.m. and continuing until the moon sets just after 6 a.m.

For more on the transit of Venus, see these websites:

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