Safely View The Transit Of
Venus June 8 With Help Of UNH Space Scientists
Contact: David Sims
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
June 3, 2004
DURHAM, N.H. -- The University of New Hampshire Observatory and
Department of Physics, along with Rivers Camera of Dover, will sponsor
a sunrise event at the Seacoast Science Center Tuesday, June 8,
2004 to view the passage, or transit, of Venus across the face of
the sun. No living person has seen this event, which last occurred
in 1882 and was the focus of intense scientific scrutiny.
On the East Coast, the planet, which will appear as a small black
dot with a diameter one thirty-second of the sun's will already
be making its transit as the sun rises around 5 a.m. The event will
end roughly two and a half hours later. Special telescopes and solar
sunglasses for safely viewing the transit will be provided. UNH
staff will also be on hand to answer questions.
The transit of Venus occurs in pairs nearly every century. The last
transits occurred in 1874 and 1882. After next week, Venus will
again cross the sun on June 6, 2012.
In 1882 it was hoped that scientific observation of the transit
would help answer one of the most fundamental questions of the day:
What is the exact distance between the Earth and the sun? This number,
in turn, would have provided scientists with the ability to calculate
the size of the solar system using formulas developed by astronomer
Johannes Kepler in the 17th century. At the time, the United States
sent out eight expeditions to make observations around the world,
and other nations took similar steps.
But a precise number could not be determined because of, in part,
the so-called "black drop" effect, which makes it appear
as if Venus deforms and clings to the edge of the sun as it begins
and finishes its transit. Scientists now know that viewing the event
through Earth's atmosphere and the limitations of optical equipment
causes the black drop effect. Also, the exact distance to the sun
and other planets has since been measured precisely using radar
and laser ranging techniques.
Viewing any type of solar event must be done with great care to
avoid severe eye damage or even blindness. The sun should never
be viewed with the naked eye. Permanent eye damage can occur almost
instantly. Sunglasses, unfiltered telescopes, binoculars, cameras,
even cloud cover do not provide adequate protection.
The Seacoast Science Center is located at 570 Ocean Blvd. in Rye.
For more information about the June 8 event, call the Science Center
at (603) 436-8043 or e-mail John Gianforte at email@example.com.
Poor weather conditions will cancel the session.
For more information on the transit of Venus, visit the NASA web
site at http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/watchtheskies/venus_transit.html.