Rare celestial event coming in June

Published 1:12 pm Friday, May 25, 2012

Venus will be viewable passing between the Earth and the sun for a period of a few hours June 5. Submitted photo

For a period of a few hours on June 5, the planet Venus will pass directly between the earth and the sun.

This rare celestial phenomenon, referred to as the Transit of Venus, allows Venus to be seen as a small black dot slowly gliding across the face of the sun.

It won’t happen again for more than 100 years, so if you want to see it this is your last chance.

“It gives you a sense of scale and perspective about the size and distance of the solar system and where we fit in there,” said Chuck Bueter, who runs the website transitofvenus.org.

“It is a front-row seat to this natural phenomenon we are trying to detect light years away.”

For a bit of perspective, Bueter said Venus is about the same size as Earth. When Venus passes in front of the sun at a size of less than 1/30 of the sun’s diameter, you get a sense of just how large the sun is.

“You could fit a million earths inside the sun,” Bueter said.

The Transit of Venus has a strange pattern of frequency. The last transit occurred eight years ago in 2004. After the transit happens on June 5 it won’t occur for another 121 ½ years, until Dec. 11, 2117. The next one will occur eight years later on Dec. 8, 2125.

Essentially, transits occur in pairs eight years apart, followed by a period of more than 100 years before the next pair occurs. The pairs always occur in the same month, rotating between June and December.

Bueter said the Transit of Venus would be viewable by people in Michiana beginning at 6:04 p.m. June 5 until sunset.

Several events are being held in conjunction with the phenomenon.

Signal Travel & Tours will be offering a Transit of Venus motor coach experience on June 5, which includes stops at several destinations, including Lake Michigan, as well as information provided by Transit of Venus experts. Space is limited to the first 36 people to sign up. Visit signaltravel.com for more details.

Transit of Venus Art will be on display at the Harris Branch Library in Granger (Ind.) from May 1 to June 9. The Livery in Benton Harbor will be offering a Transit of Venus Art Exhibit from May 6-June 30 and a handcrafted Venusian beer.

Pizza Transit, in Niles, will be offering a special black-drop pizza in honor of the celestial event.

View it safely

Although fun and educational, viewing the Transit of Venus can be harmful to the human eye.

Brenda Smoke, of Smoke Vision Care, recommends viewing the solar event safely with such methods as the use of an image projection device, wearing solar viewing filter or special glasses designed for solar observation.

Telescopes for safe viewing of the Transit of Venus will be offered at the following locations:

• PHM Digital Video Theater in Mishawaka

• Jordan Hall of Science at Notre Dame

• LaSalle Intermediate Academy in South Bend

• New Carlisle Public Library in New Carlisle, Ind.

• Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer

• Buchanan Art Center in Buchanan