For release: 06/03/04
Release #: 04-160
The Marshall Center will co-host a "Transit of Venus" viewing party and program Tuesday at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, beginning at 5:30 a.m. CDT. This rare astronomical event — caused by Venus crossing in front of the Sun — last occurred in 1882, and the next eclipse will not occur until 2012.Photo: Animation of the transit of Venus across the Sun (NASA/GSFC)
On June 8, Venus will cross in front of the Sun for the first time since 1882 — one of only six such events witnessed and recorded by mankind.
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will co-host a "Transit of Venus" viewing party Tuesday, June 8, and the public is invited. The event will be held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, in the west parking lot, near the Saturn V rocket display. The program will be from 5:30-7:30 a.m. CDT. There will be no admission fee. Signs will direct visitors to the viewing area.
The Sun, Venus and Earth must be in a direct line for a transit to occur, and the circumstances of transits repeat themselves with great exactness. For example, a pair of transits occurs over a time span of just eight years, but following the second of the pair, the next pairing will not occur again for more than a century. Transits occurred in 1761 and 1769; and 1874 and 1882. This year's event will be followed by another in 2012. The next transit will occur in 2117.
The exact time of the transit over Huntsville will be 5:30-6:26 a.m. CDT — at sunrise. But the view could be obstructed by early morning haze, said Marshall Center engineer and astronomer Dr. Bill Cooke.
A "play-by-play commentary" will be provided by Cooke, and telescopes will be operated by NASA scientists and engineers. The National Space Science and Technology Center and the Von Braun Astronomical Society will present information about other celestial events and spacecraft. Telescopes will be equipped with special filters to protect eyes from the Sun's harmful rays.
Marshall's Educator Resource Center, the National Space Science and Technology Center, the Space & Rocket Center and the Von Braun Astronomical Society will co-host the event.
Venus in transit across the Sun will appear as a distinct, round black spot with a diameter just 1/32 that of the solar disc. It will be readily visible without telescopes or binoculars, but proper eye protection is necessary. Experts caution to never look directly at the Sun or serious eye damage can result. Viewers should use special, approved filters that may be purchased from astronomy product dealers. Another method is forming an image of the Sun by placing a pinhole in a sheet of opaque material and projecting this image on a screen.
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