Venus Will Be Visible In Day Sky; Tylerites Can See It At TJC's CESSE
By BRITTNI BARNETT
East Texans will have the opportunity to see one of the rarest sites in astronomy on Tuesday as Venus passes between Earth and the sun for the last time this century.
The Transit of Venus occurs about every 100 years in pairs separated by eight years, , said Tom Hooten, director of the Tyler Junior College's Center for Earth and Space Science Education.
The last transit took place in June 2004 and after Tuesday, will not occur again until 2117 and 2125, he said.
A transit is characterized by an object moving in front of a larger object, Hooten said. Rather than covering the entire sun, Venus will merely resemble a small black disc moving across it.
When Johannes Kepler first theorized his laws of planetary motion he also made predictions about transits of Venus and Mercury, Hooten said.
"That really provided evidence back then of something that is common knowledge today -- that math can make predictions about what happens," he said. "That was revolutionary thinking back then, that you could actually predict what would happen in the heavens."
Since then, these transits have been used by scientists and mathematicians to make realistic estimates as to the size of the solar system, Hooten said.
The Astronomical Society of East Texas will have a public viewing of the event at Tyler Junior College campus on Tuesday from about 2 to 9 p.m. Preliminary events will take place at the Earth and Space Center and the organization will then set up telescopes equipped with sun filters in a parking lot off Devine Street next to the water tower.
"The rarity of this even makes it appealing," Paul Shaw, a member of the astronomical society, said. "You will never see this again in your lifetime and I think people will enjoy coming to see something so unusual."
East Texans will have their first opportunity to see the occurrence when Venus first makes contact with the sun at 4:05 p.m., Hooten said. Second contact, when Venus is entirely in front of the sun, will occur about 4:22 p.m.
The earlier people watch the event the better, because the sun will sink below the horizon and set before the transit is finished, Hooten said.
According to the National Weather Service there is chance of showers on Tuesday. However, if people are unable to view the event because of weather conditions Hooten said the earth and space center will play a live feed of the transit provided by NASA.
"We should as a society be interested in these types of things because America as a whole suffers from a lack of scientific literacy," Hooten said. "And I think that's part of what our job is here (at the earth and space center). We want to educate adults on the need (for this literacy)."