Western offers safe viewing of rare Venus transit

When Venus passes directly between the sun and Earth, it is a truly rare astronomical event. Scientists from Western University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy are making best efforts to provide excellent viewing opportunities for media and the general public during the next occurrence, which is expected Tuesday, June 5th from a few minutes past 6 p.m. EST till sunset. For more information, please visit https://venus.uwo.ca/

According to Western astronomer Jan Cami, these passes – known as transits – are rare because the orbit of Venus is tilted as it relates to Earth’s orbit around the sun, giving the illusion that it generally moves above or below the sun from our point of view.

Transits of Venus occur in pairs, eight years apart. The upcoming transit is the second of current pair. The previous Venus transit was in 2004. Prior to that one, it was 1882. Between the pairs, there is either a time span of 105.5 or 121.5 years without transits. The next transit of Venus will happen 105.5 years from now in 2117, followed by a second transit in 2125. As the pattern repeats, the next transit is expected 121.5 years later in 2237.

Observers, who will see Venus as a small black dot gliding slowly across the face of the sun, must take extreme caution to not look directly at the event without proper eye protection as severe eye damage can result in seconds.

Members of Western’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) have organized diverse and safe viewing opportunities for Tuesday, June 5th at the Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory (next to Alumni Hall) and in the southeast corner of the Springett Parking Lot. Astronomers will facilitate viewing utilizing eclipse glasses and a state-of-the-art solar telescope.

A “planet walk” between the two observation sites will feature a scale model of the Solar System and an exhibit about Venus and transits. As well, a live feed of the event as seen from different locations worldwide will be presented in the conference room of the Cronyn Observatory. After sunset, the Cronyn Observatory will remain open for additional stargazing and exceptional looks at Mars and Saturn.