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Venus, oh Venus: Get ready for a celestial show
Filtered telescopes offer a chance to watch planet cross the sun
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2012 Transit of Venus

Chestatee Science Club

When: 5:45 p.m. June 5

Where: Chestatee High School, Sardis Road in Gainesville

Cost: Free

More info: 941-475-1578, fasterlock@att.net

Elachee Nature Science Center and North Georgia Astronomers

When: 5 p.m. June 5

Where: Empty lot across from the Sam’s Club in Oakwood

Cost: Free

More info: 770-535-7181

Even if you aren’t an astronomy buff, this planetary event is worth seeing — but only with a telescope.

At approximately 6:03 p.m. Tuesday, June 5, a rare astronomical event will be visible from Gainesville. And it won’t happen again until 2117.

As the planet Venus crosses the face of the Sun, it will be visible from many locations on Earth. The event, known as a planetary transit, was last visible from Earth in June 2004. Prior to 2004, the previous transit of Venus occurred in 1882.

According to space.com, the historic skywatching event “is among the rarest of predictable phenomena.”

There is also a historical importance to the transits.

Edmund Halley — of the comet fame — was the first to realize that transits could be used to measure the Earth’s distance from the sun, a distance called the astronomical unit.

There will be two places set up in Hall County to view the transit. Both are free to the public and are great learning opportunities.

At Chestatee High School on Sardis Road in Gainesville, the Chestatee Science Club will be set up at the south end of the school stadium. As many as four telescopes, equipped with solar filters, will be available for use by the public beginning at 5:45 p.m. The event will conclude just after sunset at 8:44 p.m. It is sponsored by the Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers.

In Oakwood, Elachee Nature Science Center and North Georgia Astronomers will make their telescopes available for safe viewing to as many in the general public as would like to see the Venus Transit. The solar filtered telescopes will be set up in the empty lot across from the Sam’s Club gas station on Mundy Mill Road from about 5 p.m. until about 9 p.m.

There is no charge to view the Transit. The viewing will be canceled if the weather does not permit it.

Robert Webb, president of the North Georgia Astronomers, strongly urges that viewers not attempt to watch the transit without the proper telescope filter. He warns that permanent eye damage could occur.

Frank Lock of the Chestatee Science Club viewed the 2004 Venus transit, which occurred at sunrise in North America.

“I set up a telescope connected to a television monitor across from the vehicle assembly building at Kennedy Space Center. As the sun rose, the transit had already started and Venus was visible in my telescope against the background of the sun,” says Lock.

As sunrise continued, the dark shadow of Venus moved across the surface of the sun. As we watched for about two hours, for the very first time in more than 30 years as an amateur astronomer, I felt like I was on a planet circling the sun. It was a very moving event.”

Lock says to observe the transit, you will need a telescope or binoculars equipped with a solar filter. You may attempt to watch using solar eclipse glasses or a welder’s shield. However, he added, with the earth orbiting the sun from a distance of 93,000,000 miles, it would be challenging to see Venus without a telescope.

For information about the transit visit transitofvenus.org or www.space.com.

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