Observers on the North Coast are well-positioned to see the last transit of Venus in our lifetimes on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. A transit of Venus occurs when that planet crosses (transits) the face of the Sun as viewed from Earth. The event is rare indeed, with the next transit taking place in the year 2117 -- and then not visible from Northeastern Ohio!
UPDATE: CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT WE SAW!
SAFETY FIRST! Viewing the Sun incorrectly can instantly and permanently damage your eyes! There are only a few ways to safely view the Sun during the transit event. Click Here for More Information.
The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association, with several other astronomical and educational organizations, will host a major event celebrating the 2012 transit of Venus. The public is invited to Cleveland's Edgewater State Park where telescopes will be set up, exhibitor booths and hands-on demonstrations operated, and solar viewing glasses made available. Observing of the transit begins just after 6:00 and ends with sunset, the transit still in progress. As darkness falls, weather permitting, the telescopes will turn toward other objects: the Moon, Mars, Saturn, even the International Space Station will put in an appearance! The lakefront event ends at 11:00 PM.
UPDATE: Lorain County residents may find it more convenient to attend a public observing session hosted by the Black River Astronomical Society and Lorain County Metroparks at Lakeview Park in Lorain. For a flyer with the details see this PDF handout. The Lorain event runs from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.
The transit begins at about 6:04 PM EDT, when Venus appears to straddle the solar limb and is then visible until the Sun sets, having progressed halfway across the solar disk. In times past, transits of Venus were significant to astronomers as a means to accurately determine the size of the solar system. Astronomers from around the world embarked on expeditions to make observations from widely-separated locations. Today the rare alignment demonstrates how astronomers can detect planets orbiting distant stars using the transit method. For much more information on the 2012 transit of Venus, including ways to view it safely, visit TransitOfVenus.org.
For a schedule of events and location information, see the PDF located here, courtesy of Cleveland State University.
UPDATE: In case the weather is bad or you just can't make it, view the transit via Webcast: Click Here for Webcast Information or visit the Space Camera site: Click here for Slooh.com. You may also view progress of Venus across the solar disk by viewing NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) which, today, will be regularly updated to show progressive still images of the Sun and the transit of Venus as seen from space. You will need to manually refresh your view and remember, the transit doesn't begin until about 6:04 PM EDT -- Click Here for APOD.
Image: The 2004 Venus transit as seen by the Solar and Helospheric Observatory (SOHO). Credit: SOHO/EIT/ESA/NASA