By Nikki Garrett Metzger
(Victor Valley) – If you are a space geek like me, or you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve probably heard about the “Transit of Venus” that is taking place today and how historic it is. So, what is all the hub bub about?
Exploratorium.edu explains that the Transits of Venus—the movement of Venus across the face of the Sun—occur in pairs that are eight years apart and then don’t happen again for more than a century. Prior to the current pair, the last two Venus transits were in 1874 and 1882. After the transit in 2012, there won’t be another pair until 2117 and 2125. These rare alignments have been important for scientific research. Of particular significance, Venus transits provided observers with data that eventually led to a very close estimate of the astronomical unit—the distance between the earth and the sun.
Transits are still of interest to scientists today, because they can be used to find planets outside our solar system, also known as extrasolar planets, or exoplanets.
There are SEVERAL live webcasts that will be set up to view this historical event. Exploratorium.edu will stream live from the Mauna Loa, Hawaii starting at 3:00pm our time. The webcast will have a telescope feed plus audio commentary every 30 minutes.
NASA has an interactive map with locations that will be streaming the event live: http://venustransit.nasa.gov/webcasts/ .
NASA EDGE in Mauna Kea, Hawaii is hosting the primary Sun-Earth Day webcast. This webcast event will run through the entirety of the transit of Venus, beginning at 3:45pm local time.
Locally the High Desert Astronomical Society will have the telescope set up at the Luz Observatory at the Lewis Center for Educational Research to view the event. It will be open to the public starting at 3:45pm and go on until the sun reaches the horizon, which will probably be around 7:30pm.
All of these options are the best way to view the Transit of Venus; however you can view it on your own…with PROPER precautions, or course! Just like viewing the solar eclipse that occurred last month, you will have to look directly at the sun to see Venus crossing the sun. It is NEVER safe to look directly at the sun without some sort of filter. Be absolutely sure that you have the correct filter. Just because a filter makes the Sun seem dim does not mean that it’s blocking invisible infrared or ultraviolet radiation that will certainly cause eye damage in short order.
Find out more about the Transit of Venus and the best way to view it safely at http://www.exploratorium.edu/venus/question1.html