Venus viewing parties being held tonight

Scientists and skywatchers around the world are getting ready to watch Venus make its' way across the sun.

June 5, 2012 10:33:26 AM PDT
Several Houston-area observatories are holding Venus viewing parties tonight, including the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

At the Museum District location, they are breaking out telescopes large and small for a celebration that is important to those who study the planets. You can look at the transit of Venus on the museum's sundial patio from 4pm until 6pm using their telescopes or special glasses to protect your eyes.

The last time this happened was 129 years ago. If you miss the transit of Venus this time, you're out of luck until 2117.

Scientists can predict exactly when the transit of Venus occurs using the speed at which Venus moves, which is determined by the gravity pull of the sun and Venus's distance from the sun.

"There's going to be one sun spot that is totally round and sharp edged and that's the planet Venus," said Vice President of Astronomy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Dr. Carolyn Sumner. "It will take it up until 11 tonight to get all the way across the face of the sun. That's how fast it moves as we watch it, of course, the sun will be down. So we have a window from 5:09pm exactly until about 8:15pm, whenever the sun sets for you. We have that window in which to see this. We humans with our calculators and our plutonium mechanics can actually tell you that at 5:09 not 5:10 not 5:12 that Venus will kiss the edge of the sun."

One thing that is very important is to protect your eyes using special glasses or a telescope that has a filter. Do not look directly at the sun or you can cause serious and permanent eye damage.

There will also be viewing parties at the Museum Annex in Sugar Land and at the George Observatory.

Humble ISD's Insperity Observatory is also open to star-gazers from 5:05pm until 8:20pm tonight. Individual telescopes will be set up and the Venus transit will also be projected on a big screen.

There will also be observing of the Transit of Venus from the Rice Campus Observatory on the 4th floor. It's free and open to the public. There is paid parking in the North Annex lot (entrance 20) before 5:30 pm and in the North Lot after 5:30 pm. For more information of the event at Rice University, Click Here.

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