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Tuesday, June 5

Venus Transit!

Today is a huge day for both amateur and professional astronomers and also geeks like me. Unless our vitamins work really well, this is the last crack we'll have at seeing Venus transit across the face of the sun during our lifetimes.

In Chicago, the transit starts at 5:04pm. Here, the sun will set mid-transit, at 8:17.

Wikipedia has a brief but helpful page on the Transit, along with a couple of simple videos that show what we will see and why this is all happening.

National Geographic has beautiful pictures, of course.

You will be able to watch the event live, in real time, on the web. One good spot for that will be the National Solar Observatory.

The Adler Planetarium will be having stuff going on all day, and will have a ton of astronomers on hand to share the experience with both telescopes and video projection. Their Transit page also has a nice video on how to observe the Transit safely. I cannot stress enough how important it is to talk to kids and adults about safe ways to view the sun and the dire consequences of not following those safety recommendations. Don't assume that it's common sense to everyone.

Here's how to view the Transit or the sun really any time, using projection!
I figure that Adler will have the event covered just fine without my little solar scope down there, so I've chosen to set up closer to home, on the hill at Horner Park's north end. We'll lose the sun in the trees eventually after 8pm, but downtown they will be dodging buildings much earlier. You are welcome to join me and take the event in. I know even less about solar astronomy than planetary astronomy, so please adjust your expectations accordingly.

I will arrive at about 4pm to start setting up. There are four big events of the transit that have to do with contact of Venus and the inner and outer edge of the solar disk. We will only see the first two. These are at 5:04 and 5:21 (see attached picture). I would like to be observing at those times, but after and between those times, we'll have three hours to catch Venus cruising across the surface the sun. The sun is quite active now, so the chances of sun spots and looping solar prominences are great. The sun is never a boring place.

I am attaching three pictures. The first is a graphic of what we should see tomorrow as Venus transits the sun from Chicago thanks to my pal Curt Renz

The second is a map of where I'll be setting up at Horner. (That's the letter A.) 

The third is a current Hydrogen-alpha (Ha) view of the sun, and it is full of activity! 

The view through my Ha telescope will be similar to this one, but much smaller. :-) Viewing the sun in a telescope is a powerful experience even on a normal day. Tomorrow should be a lot of fun. So, bring the kids, leashed pets, a camera, some lemonade and gummy bears, sunscreen, and your own eclipse glasses if you have them. 

Wherever you end up viewing the Transit, I wish you clear skies.


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