Unless you are somehow still alive in 2117, you will get your only chance to see Venus transit the sun this evening.
Venus and Mercury are the only two planets between the earth and the sun.
“The first transit ever observed was of the planet Mercury in 1631 by the French astronomer Pierre Gassendi,” Fred Espenak, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., wrote on the NASA Eclipse website. “A transit of Venus occurred just one month later, but Gassendi’s attempt to observe it failed because the transit was not visible from Europe. In 1639, Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree became the first to witness a transit of Venus.”
In the 18th century, transits of Venus provided astronomers with the first way to measure the absolute size of the solar system, including the distance from the Earth to the sun, which wasn’t known at the time. Astronomer Edmond Halley first came up with the method of comparing measurements made from various locations on Earth to triangulate the distances to Venus and the sun, according to Space.com.
The Town Creek Indian Mound in Mt. Gilead, on 509 Town Creek Mound Road, will be setting up one of their telescopes so folks can get a view.
Venus will take her time crossing the sun, and according to Town Creek Indian Mound Site Manager Rich Thompson, will be visible from 6 p.m. until sunset, but should not be viewed with the naked eye.
“We’ll set up a 12-inch Dobsonian telescope with a solar filter so we can look directly at the sun,” said Thompson, who explained that the lens is 12 inches in diameter. “It looks like a cannon. It will allow folks to see Venus pass in front of the sun.”
If you plan to call to ask what to bring, the answer is nothing. Thompson said he has received several calls and emails from folks who are eager to see the once-in-a-lifetime event.
Still have questions? Call the Town Creek Indian Mound at 910-439-6802.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.