Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Rare transit of Venus crosses the sun on Tuesday

transitvenus.jpgIf you have science nuts in your house like I do, Tuesday's rare "transit of Venus" has been a topic of conversation. Though it doesn't look like much except a maybe a mole crossing the sun's cheek, no one alive will be around to see this when it happens again in 2117. So that has caused some urgency in my house to make sure we don't miss it.

You can read about the amazing history connected with this transit here, about how scientists fanned the globe in the 1700s -- and some even died in the effort -- to record the transit and use that information and some trigonometry to figure out how far the Earth is from the sun. It was the building block for measuring the heavens!

Here's some tips for viewing it:

On Tuesday, all of North America and parts of Asia will be able to see the transit of Venus across the sun. The whole transit takes about seven hours, but the West Coast has the best viewing. The East Coast will only see it for about two hours, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Protect your eyes: Never look at the sun with the naked eye. Dozens of websites including www.transitofvenus.org offer tips on how to look at the transit safely such as making a pinhole projector.

Watch it online: If the weather is a washout, you can watch the transit through NASA's live remote webcast from atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Visit venustransit.nasa.gov/transitofvenus.

Local viewings

• The Museum of Science and Industry will have solar telescopes and solar shades, as well as a planetarium show to go along with the event, from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday. $20, $15 for members. Call (813) 987-6000 to register. MOSI is at 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa.

• The St. Petersburg College Planetarium will have telescopes with solar filters and will have the transit on a projection TV set up between 5:45 p.m. and sunset. The observatory is on the third floor of the Natural Science building at the SPC Gibbs campus, on 69th Street at Fifth Ave. N. Free.

• The St. Petersburg Astronomy Club will have a public viewing on the deck of the Old Snack Shack, 15102 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach. There will be a variety of ways to view the transit, plus some astronomers on hand to answer any questions. Free.

• St. Petersburg Astronomy Club members also will conduct a public viewing on the roof of the Richard A. Beard parking garage on the University of South Florida Tampa campus starting at 6 p.m. Enter the campus at the main entrance on Fowler Avenue. Make a left at the first traffic light and the garage is on the right at the next traffic light. Free.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Monday, June 4, 2012 11:00am]

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