Sunday May 13, 2012

Special to The Eagle

Catch sight of planet Venus in the early evening for just two more weeks and linger with its wonderful light before it falls into the sun on June 5. At least it will appear to fall into the sun when viewed from Earth.

You may have observed that the brilliant Evening Star has begun to appear lower in the western sky at dusk everyday. A free fall seems to begin next week, so that by June 1 the goddess planet will set close to the setting sun, most likely too close to be visible.

Tonight, Venus sets at 10:53 p.m. On June 1, the planet sets at 8:57 p.m. while sunset is at 8:23 p.m.

Then, on June 5, we will have the extremely rare and alluring opportunity to see Venus move across the face of the sun. This is the Venus transit. The transit begins
at 6:03 p.m. and continues until sunset at 8:26 p.m. It won’t occur again for over
a century!

Make preparations now to experience this momentous event. Procure a pair of eclipse glasses (www.astronomerswithout borders.org/ ) or #14 welder’s glasses to protect your eyes or plan to go to one of the programs where astronomy buffs will offer their knowledge and equipment for safe viewing of the giant sun with the small planet traversing it.

Amherst Area Amateur Astronomy Association (www.amherstastronomy.org) will host telescope viewing on Mt. Pollux in Amherst and on Quabbin Hill at Quabbin Reservoir, the latter co-hosted by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Judy Isacoff: www.naturesturn.org