On the morning of Wednesday 6th June the planet Venus will appear to cross the face of the Sun, this rare astronomical event is called a transit. Venus transits occur in pairs that are separated by over 100 years. For those of us not blessed with extraordinary longevity this will be our last chance to see this happen, the next opportunity will not be until 2117!
A transit of Venus was first observed in 1639 by English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks, following predictions derived from the work of Johannes Kepler. Later Edmond Halley realised that the transit could be used to calculate the distance between the Earth and the Sun (the astronomical unit). This was a major breakthrough enabling astronomers to determine the scale of the solar system more accurately than ever before.
Venus takes over 6 hours to travel across the face of the Sun and will begin its journey before midnight on the 5th. Unfortunately the Sun will be below the horizon at this time so we will not be able to observe the early part of the transit from the UK.
On the morning of the 6th the Sun will rise just before 5am with the transit ending around 50 minutes later. Here at The Malcolm Parry Observatory we will be attempting to observe this latter part of the transit. The beginning and end of a transit are perhaps the most interesting to observe, with effects such as the mysterious ‘black drop’ sometimes being visible.
We will begin at 4.45am, meeting for breakfast at the observatory building. There will then be an opportunity to view the transit in the observatory through the solar telescope and through small telescopes outside fitted with a solar filter.
This event is open to all. If you would like to come along please email the observatory to book your places.
You can read more about the transit at: http://www.transitofvenus.org/, there is even a smart phone app that you can download!
Remember: it is dangerous to observe the Sun without the correct solar filter, this can cause permanent eye damage even if the Sun is low in the sky.