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Viewing the Transit of Venus in Macomb

Photo from Heavens Above

A rare astronomical event takes place Tuesday, June 5, when Venus passes between the sun and the earth. It's called the Transit of Venus.

“Unless you live to December 2117, this is your last chance to see it,” said Brian Davies, Assistant Professor of Physics at Western Illinois University.

The last Transit of Venus occurred in 2004. None happened in the 20th Century.

Davies will set up a special solar telescope in Chandler Park. The public can stop by to take a look through it shortly after 5:00 p.m. and continuing until sunset.

Davies said people should never look directly at the sun. The telescope has a pair of filters to block out much of the sun's light and allow only a certain red light to come through.

“That gives us a lot of contrast. So in addition to seeing the shadow of Venus crossing the sun, we'll be able to see sunspots, prominences, and perhaps some other features on the surface of the sun,” Davies said.

The physics department will also set up two telescopes at the University's Malpass Library Archives Unit on the sixth floor. One solar telescope will be set up on the balcony facing  west with a camera recording the image and showing it on a screen. 

The other telescope will be set up to show other features of the active sun.

Davies said the Transit of Venus is important historically because it proved the orbit of Venus was smaller than Earth's and that the sun was at the center of the solar system. Researchers are expected to use the 2012 event to conduct a number of experiments, especially regarding exoplanets.


Rich is TSPR's News Director.