Pimple on Sun: Where, how and how not to watch Venus transit

Solar glasses are a hot commodity, says Dubai Astronomy Group

On June 6, Wednesday morning, the planet Venus will cross the face of the sun from the Earth’s perspective, a phenomenon known as the Transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event, where Venus will be a small, visible dot that will glide from left to right across the top of the solar disk.

The next time people anywhere on Earth will be able to see such an event will be in 105 years. If you miss it, you’ll need to be a centenarian to catch the next one: It will occur on December 11, 2117.

So if you’re convinced that this is your only – practically speaking – chance of watching this rare, once-in-a-lifetime astronomical delight, get your hands on the eclipse glasses soon, because they’re fast selling out, according to Dubai Astronomy Group (DAG), which is selling special eclipse glasses for those wishing to catch the rare astronomical event from home.

“We’ve already sold about 300 eclipse glasses in the past two days, and expect to sell many more before the event on Wednesday,” says DAG’s Samer.

“However, we’d advise people to come to the free observation session that we are organizing at the American University of Sharjah on the day to fully enjoy and understand the event,” he adds.

For those interested in taking the trouble to view this event in its full glory, you can find the details here http://www.dubaiastronomy.com/.

There’s a word of caution though for the homegrown astronomer: Do not try to view the event with naked eye, as despite the clear skies weather forecast for the day (June 6), the sun will be bright and can damage eyesight.

“It will be dangerous to look at the Transit with naked eye as the sun’s rays will be harmful to the eye,” warns Samer, and insists that DAG’s special eclipse glasses, which the group is selling for a nominal Dh10, come equipped with special filters that weed out the sun’s harmful rays and make the event safe to view.

The DAG event is scheduled between 5.30am and 8.30am on June 6, 2012, when it will be most visible although the Transit will begin as early as 2am in the morning, and will be visible across the UAE, including in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Venus will appear as a small, easily visible dot on the face if the sun. Those watching the event will see a black, completely dark circle against the bright disk of the sun. If you sit there and watch, it will gradually creep across the face of the sun.

Commenting about the timing of Venus transit in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Astronomer, Nizar Salam, Chairman of the UAE Mobile Astronomical Observatory, an employee of the Directorate General of Central Operations at Abu Dhabi Police, told UAE news agency WAM that the disk of Venus will start touching the edge of the external disk of sun in the so-called first contact at 02:08 am, and the entry gets complete at 2:25 am, both after midnight, therefore, the Venus transit will not be visible as the sun will be below the eastern horizon.

He added that Venus transit will reach climax at about 5:31am. So the transit can be viewed clearly in the beginning of sunrise in Abu Dhabi at about 5:33am, indicating that the chances of viewing the transit will be better in the Northern Emirates because of sunrise time difference – about 9 minutes in the Emirate of Fujairah.

The event will also be shown live on websites for NASA, the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter northeast of Tucson and the Slooh Space Camera, which uses a network of telescopes around the world, including in Prescott (check the websites for the exact time of broadcast as they will be catching the Transit of Venus from the US).

Direct viewing through solar-filtered telescopes will be offered by the DAG at the American University of Sharjah while Abu Dhabi Police’s General Headquarters will also be organizing an event.

Venus, the second planet from the sun, is often mistakenly called the “morning star” or “evening star” because of its brightness. Transits of Venus have captivated scientists for centuries. They occur in pairs, with each transit eight years apart; the pairs are separated by more than 100 years.

The first documented observation of a transit was in 1639. The most recent transit was in 2004; the next won’t occur for another 105 years, until December 2117.

The DAG is anticipating a lot of public interest in the transit because it will be the last one that most people see in their lifetimes. The transit follows a dazzling solar eclipse May 20 in which the moon blocked out all but a glowing ring of the sun. Scientists are equally excited about the transit.

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