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Viewing the Transit of Venus

June 5, 2012

Category: A Closer Look

Today, Venus will pass directly between the sun and Earth, making this an historical event that will not be seen anywhere on Earth for another 105 years. The Transit of Venus will begin at 3:06 p.m. PDT and will reach the exact center of its transit path at 6:25 p.m. Since the sun sets around 8 p.m., stargazers in California will be unable to view the end of the transit, which occurs a little before 10 p.m.

The transit is similar to a solar eclipse by the moon, where Venus moves left to right blocking light from the sun to the Earth. Since Venus is much further away than the moon, those watching will only be able to see a small black dot across the surface of the sun.

Just like the eclipse, observers should protect their eyes during the Transit of Venus. Staring at the sun can ruin the eye’s cells and cause blindness.

For safely observing the transit, the following CSU campuses will provide viewing opportunities for the public:

Cal State Fullerton: Different types of telescopes will be set up for public viewing at the Fullerton Arboretum, located at 1900 Associated Road, Fullerton, 92831. The free event also features lectures about the transit and the greenhouse effect at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively, and astronomy-related activities and physics demonstrations.

Fresno State: Free telescope viewing of the Transit of Venus will be available at Fresno State’s Downing Planetarium (southeast of the Barstow and Maple avenues intersection) on campus. The viewing is planned 3-7 p.m. with planetarium shows at 2 and 4 p.m.

San Francisco State: The University’s observatory (located in Thorton Hall on the ninth floor) will set up equipment to allow members of the public to view the transit, and a camera will be attached to a telescope with a solar filter to capture images of Venus passing in front of the sun.

San José State: The Department of Physics and Astronomy will have telescopes and other viewing apparatus set up in front of Tower Hall starting at about 2:45 p.m.

CSU San Marcos: The viewing will begin at 3:30 p.m. atop Double Peak Park in San Elijo Hills (900 Double Peak Drive, off San Elijo Road), the highest elevation point in San Marcos, and continue until sunset.

CSU East Bay: The CSUEB Hayward Campus will hold the observation at the Science East Lawn area, east of the science buildings. An eight-inch telescope featuring a Mylar filter will be used to observe sunspots, and a small telescope using an H-alpha filter will allow viewers to see any solar prominences made by Venus during transit.

*Photo: Transit of Venus; credit: culture-and-current-affairs.com

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