BC prepares for historic Venus transit

Photo courtesy of eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov

June 5, 2012, Venus will transition across the Sun for the last time in this generation, returning next in 2117.

The transition of planet Venus across the Sun will occur for nearly six and a half hours, visible around almost the entire planet between sunset in the Americas and sunrise in Europe on June 6.

To commemorate such an important and rare event in history, Bellevue College’s Earth and Space Science Club put on a series of lessons and documentaries all last week in preparation for the astronomical event, including:

Obsession & Science: Chasing Venus Around the Globe

Description: Only 7 times in the history of the human race have we had the opportunity to view the transit of Venus across the face of the Sun. Scientists devoted decades of their lives to being in the right place at the right time. Come see why it is an opportunity you don’t want to miss! Presented by Science Division Dean Rob Viens”

The Astronomical Distance Ladder: The Math of the Venus Transit

Description: Much of what we know about the universe depends  on our ability  to  measure astronomical distances without leaving Earth. This talk will explain how measurements of Venus transits solved a (then) 2000-year-old problem of finding the distance between the Sun and Earth, which opened the way to modern astronomy. Presented by BC Physicist Dr. Doug Brown.”

Having transitted the Sun 7 times before, the eclipsing of Venus across the Sun has become a prominently invaluable event scientists have used to study the solar system and all residing planets within.

Used in the past in unraveling the distance between Earth and the Sun (using Venus’ path to mathematically map out the stretch between the third rock and the Sun), this time around scientists are planning to use the calculations of Venus to configure the size of the entire solar system, which scientists still do not know.

The website transitofVenus.org – the main public hub for any and all information about this event, has placed up an application available for smartphones asking the public to aid scientists during the transit.

All they would have to do is send images they take any time during and of Venus’ path to the free app. However, transitofVenus.org warns about eye-safety when viewing the transit.

“Exposure of the retina to intense visible light causes damage to its light-sensitive rod and cone cells. The light triggers a series of complex chemical reactions within the cells which damages their ability to respond to a visual stimulus, and in extreme cases, can destroy them” said B. Rapl Chou, a member on the website, “Because the apparent diameter of Venus is only 1/30 that of the Sun, there is never a time during the transit when it is safe to look at it without proper eye protection.”

“The Bellevue College Earth and Space Science Club will host telescope views of the planet Venus transiting across the face of our active Sun. Well have Sun viewing scopes set up and solar safe glasses for use” said the Earth Space Science Club, “Come join us in experiencing this rare event.”