May 31, 2012
12-153

Jessica Pope
Communications Specialist

Transit of Venus Occurs June 5, VSU Observatory Deck Will Be Open

VALDOSTA -- Valdosta State University’s Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences will open the observatory deck on the roof of Nevins Hall on Tuesday, June 5, to those who wish to view the transit of Venus.

This rare, near-perfect alignment of Earth, Venus, and the sun will not occur again until December 2117 and December 2125. It previously occurred in 1882 and on the morning of June 8, 2004.

“As Venus moves in its orbit, it passes approximately between Earth and sun every 1.6 years, but only very rarely does the planet pass directly between Earth and sun,” said Dr. Kenneth Rumstay, professor of both physics and astronomy and director of the VSU Observatory. “When this happens, Earthbound observers see the planet as a tiny black dot, slowly moving across the face of the sun. Historically, these events were of great importance to astronomers as they provided the most accurate means of gauging the distance to the sun and, thereby, determining the scale of our solar system.”

Valdostans with a clear western horizon will be able to view the first two and a half hours of this seven-hour event, which will end after midnight, Rumstay continued. Those in the center of the Pacific Ocean will see the entire event, while those in the United States will only see the beginning of the transit.

“For the remainder of the year, Venus moves west of the sun, rising earlier each day and eventually appearing as a brilliant morning star in the predawn sky,” he said.

VSU’s observatory deck will open at 5 p.m. The transit of Venus will begin at 6:05 p.m. As dusk approaches, Rumstay noted that those on the deck may be able to view Mars and Saturn. The public viewing will end at 9 p.m.

“All members of the community are invited to join us for this rare celestial event,” he said.

Rumstay urged everyone viewing the transit of Venus to take all appropriate safety measures. He said that no one should observe the sun without a proper solar filter. Those viewing the astronomical event from home without specialized equipment -- like that used by VSU’s Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences -- should use eclipse shades or No. 14 shade welding glasses.

For more information, please contact Dr. Kenneth Rumstay, physics and astronomy professor with VSU’s Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences, at (229) 333-5752 or krumstay@valdosta.edu.

On the Web:
www.transitofvenus.org/safety
http://venustransit.nasa.gov/2012/transit/webcast.php (NASA webcast from Mauna Kea, Hawaii)
http://www.exploratorium.edu/venus/ (Exploratorium in San Francisco, Calif., webcast from Mauna Loa, Hawaii)
http://www.slooh.com/transit-of-venus/ (Slooh Space Camera telescope feed from around the world)
http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org/projects/transit-of-venus.html (Astronomers Without Borders webcast from the Mount Wilson Observatory in California)

Special Note:
On Monday, June 4, the full moon will graze the upper section of Earth’s shadow. Rumstay said that an almost imperceptible darkening will begin at 4:48 a.m., and the more substantial shadow will be visible at 5:59 a.m., continuing on through moon set at 6:30 a.m. A lunar eclipse is safe to observe throughout the event, he added.