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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Preparations for Transit of Venus - Part 1

In three weeks, an alignment between the Sun, Earth and Venus will result in Venus travelling (transiting) in front of the Sun.
Venus usually travels between the Sun and the Earth (what's called an inferior conjunction) every 1.5 years. However, the conjunction on June 6th (Singapore time) is a near perfect alignment, which only occurs twice in 100 years or so. Therefore, this will be the last transit until Dec 2117.

Currently, Venus is visible in the evening for about 1 hour after sunset (i.e. before 8:30pm). It will gradually get lower in the sky as it get closer to its conjunction with the Sun and the Earth.
Photo of Venus, shining brightly above the Science Centre entrance:

During the Transit itself we can expect to see a small black dot (Venus), making its way from one edge of the Sun to the other.

Here is a diagram illustrating the approximate positions of Venus throughout the transit (as seen from Singapore):
Notice that the transit begins before sunrise in Singapore, therefore we will not be able to see the start of the transit. By the time the Sun is high enough to see, Venus will be about a third of the way across the Sun.

There are a number different ways to view the transit, but the most important thing is NOT TO LOOK AT THE SUN DIRECTLY WITHOUT A PROPER SOLAR FILTER.

This week, we've been trying out some different solar filters that we'll be setting up for visitors during our Transit of Venus event.

We have a number of large solar films that we'll be setting up at specific locations around the observatory.

(Above) Photo of Sun as seen through filter. (It will clearer when using naked eye instead of camera)

We'll also have a number of viewing points with small solar filter glasses.

Using these special filters provides an unmagnified view of the transit, where the Sun will appear about the same size of an average full moon.

Over the coming weeks I will continue to post more about other methods we will be using to provide more magnified views of the transit.

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