A little after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, residents of our area will have an opportunity to witness one of the rarest predictable celestial events: a transit of Venus.
Richfield's local nature expert, Director Karen Shragg, said the best place to watch the event is anywhere you can get a good view of the western horizon at sunset.
"It's great to pay attention to these rare events because it focuses our attention away from our earthly concerns for awhile and realize that we are a part of a solar system and a vast universe," Shragg said in an e-mail to Richfield Patch. "It's humbling!!"
Why Is This A Big Deal?
A transit of Venus only happens twice a century. The last transit was in 2004 and it's not expected to happen again until 2117. So, this a once in a lifetime event—if you didn't pay attention in 2004.
How Does The Transit Happen?
Often referred to as the "Evening Star" or "Morning Star," Venus is the brightest natural object in our sky after the sun and the moon. As the second planet from the sun, it's closer to the sun than Earth is.
A "transit" of Venus occurs when Venus passes between us and the sun in such a way that we can see Venus's silhouette backlit by the sun's brilliant light.
Were Venus either large enough or close enough to block out the sun's light as it passed, we would call this event an eclipse, as we do when the Moon passes between the earth and the sun. Venus, however, is a little bit smaller than the Earth and about 27 million miles away. When its tiny silhouette is viewed against the Sun, which lies another 66 million miles beyond, it can offer viewers a dramatic sense of the solar system's vast scale.
Assuming sufficiently clear skies, the transit will be visible for us starting at about 5:04 p.m. on Tuesday and will remain so until the sun sets. Those in the central and western U.S. will be able to enjoy it longer, while viewers in Alaska, Japan, and large sections of Australia, China, and Russia will be able to see it in its entirety. By the time the Sun rises on the East Coast on Wednesday, Venus will have completed the transit.
How To Watch
Shragg said some specialized equipment is needed to view such an event.
"I am afraid people will try to look at it with sunglasses or binoculars," she said—which isn't at all good for your eyes.
Here are a few tips to remember:
Never look directly at the sun with your naked eyes. You can damage your eyes. Likewise, viewing the sun with either binoculars or a telescope can direct the sun's magnified rays directly into your eyeball and cause serious injury―think about what happens to ants under a magnifying glass.
Sunglasses do not provide sufficient protection. If you know someone who works in plumbing or construction, ask them if they have any #14 welder's glass. You can look directly at the sun through this material without risking injury.
If you have a tripod or a partner and a pair of steady hands, you can use binoculars to project an image of the Sun onto a white piece of paper. Remember, don't look through your binoculars at the sun!
Patch's pick for the best place to watch? .
For more information about the worldwide events, safety precautions for viewing, educational content and social media activities, visit:
The public can follow the event on Twitter on #VenusTransit and download a free mobile app at: venustransit.nasa.gov/2012/multimedia/apps.php