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STEM Ed Announcement: Transit of Venus viewing at Sunwheel on June 5
- To: xxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx
- Subject: STEM Ed Announcement: Transit of Venus viewing at Sunwheel on June 5
- From: "Mort Sternheim" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2012 00:03:53 -0400
This is a UMass Amherst program.
Contact information is below.
Transit of Venus viewing at Sunwheel on June 5
The public is invited to witness one of the rarest of astronomical
events, a transit of Venus, at the campus' Sunwheel from 5:30 p.m.
until sunset on Tuesday, June 5.
Astronomy Department chair Stephen Schneider will introduce the
transit and the Sunwheel. During the transit, which is similar to
an eclipse except that Venus is so far away it only blocks a small
part of the sun, observers can see Venus as a small disk moving
across the sun. The actual transit begins at 6:04 p.m. and
visitors may watch until sunset at 8:23. Rain cancels the event,
but light clouds will not.
"Transits are extremely rare because the sun, Venus and Earth have
to be in almost perfect alignment," says Schneider. "Venus passes
by Earth every 19 months as it orbits the sun, but in all the
conjunctions for the next 105 years, Venus will miss to the north
or south of the sun from our vantage point on Earth, so it will
pass by unseen. An observable transit won't happen again until
2117. I'm delighted to share our excitement about astronomy and
help everyone to observe this event safely."
Schneider reminds amateur astronomers that it is never safe to
look directly at the sun, especially through binoculars or
telescopes, without using special solar light filters to protect
the eyes. Photographic film is not safe and will not prevent
damage to the retina. "We will have telescopes set up to project
the image of the sun for safe viewing, along with a solar
telescope and special glasses that visitors can use to observe
safely," he notes. "If you can't come, try to catch it on your own
(starting about 6pm EDT), but use a safe filter for viewing the
Sun! #14 welder's glass is fine!"
The astronomer recalls that transits of Venus were made famous by
Sir Edmund Halley of Halley's Comet fame, who showed that
carefully timing the transits from widely separated spots on earth
could be used to accurately measure the distance to Venus and the
sun for the first time. This led astronomers Mason and Dixon,
famous for surveying a line that became important in United States
history, to brave naval warfare to travel to Cape of Good Hope in
1761 to make some of the first accurate measurements.
Before the 1761 transit, the sun's distance was very uncertain and
estimates of the size and distance of objects in the solar system
were greatly underestimated. Transit observations also provided
the first evidence that Venus has an atmosphere. The Kepler
satellite now in orbit will provide modern researchers with more
fascinating data from this year's transit.
The UMass Amherst Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni
Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road. Visitors to the Sunwheel should
be prepared for wet footing.
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