Next month we will be the last people living today to witness one of the rarest astronomical events. On June 6, a special celestial event called the transit of Venus will take place, and it won’t be repeated in your lifetime.
During the transit, Venus will pass directly in front of the sun from Earth’s perspective, appearing as a small moving black dot.
The entire transit can be witnessed from eastern Asia, eastern Australia, New Zealand and the western Pacific, as well as Alaska, northern Canada and almost all of Greenland.
How rare is this astronomical event?
Transits of Venus occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by gaps of 121½ years and 105½ years. Only six of these transit have been recorded by civilization: 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882, and 2004. This June’s transit, the end of the 2004-2012 pair, won’t be repeated until the December 2117. This is the last chance for anyone alive today to see the rare celestial sight. Fortunately, the event is widely visible.
Unlike a total eclipse of the sun, which is visible only within a long narrow track traced by the moon’s shadow, during the 2012 transit of Venus the entire hemisphere of Earth facing the sun will get to see at least part of the planet’s solar crossing.
Astronomers during the 18th Century travelled thousands of miles and risked their lives to witness this precious sight.
They did so because they believed Venus held the key to the most pressing astronomical quest of the age: the size of the solar system.
In 1716, astronomer Edmund Halley realized that by timing the transits of 1761 and 1769 from widely-spaced locations on Earth it should be possible to triangulate the distance to Venus using the principles of parallax and give the distance between Earth and the Sun.
For astronomers today, the Transit of Venus offers a chance to gain insights into the planet’s notoriously thick, cloudy atmosphere, and use the refraction of sunlight to finetune techniques for hunting planets orbiting distant stars.
One of the most useful exercises will be to compare observations of the transit made by Earth-based telescopes, orbital telescopes and robot probes.
The Transit of Venus (TOV) is among the rarest astronomical phenomena and won’t happen again until the year 2117. So prepare now, and don’t miss out on this extremely special event!
Observing the TOV from the Philippines
Filipinos are lucky because the entire Philippines is well positioned to witness the transit of Venus on Wednesday 6th June 2012.
To those who are planning to observe this rare event, you might just be interested in joining us in this free public viewing.
June 06 2012, 6am – 1pm
College of Science Amphitheater, University of the Philippines Diliman
This event was launched through the collaboration of the Australian Embassy, UP Astronomical Society, UP- Los Banos Astronomical Society, RTU Astronomical Society, DOST-PAGASA and D’Great Rovers.
This event is for FREE and is open to everyone. Even those who would be coming from other parts of the globe are invited.
For more details, please visit its Facebook event page:
The general transit circumstances can be found here.
Warning: NEVER look at the sun with your naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. Serious and permanent eye damage, including blindness, can result.
- Six ways to see the transit
- Fred Espenak’s Solar Eye Safety
- Transit of Venus.org Safety
The Black Drop Effect
The black drop effect occurs when Venus appears to “connect” to the edge of the Sun before actually reaching the edge. You can model the black drop effect by slowly pinching your index finger and thumb together. Your fingers seem to meet even before they touch. This optical phenomenon was originally thought to provide proof of Venus having an atmosphere. For an explanation of the black drop effect, check out the following links:
A YouTube video of modeling the black drop effect with your fingers:
An online simulation of the black drop effect:
Other resources if you are looking for more information on the Transit of Venus:
The National Astronomy Week (NAW), which is celebrated annually every third week of February (Presidential Proclamation No. 130), falls on 20-24 February 2012 this year. The theme of this year celebration is “Viewing the Sky… Enhancing our Knowledge!”.
Lots of fun and educational activities have been prepared by different amateur astronomy groups this year which makes this year’s celebration more exciting.
Below is a list of NAW 2012 activities organized by various Philippine astronomy organizations.
For more information or for other inquiries, kindly leave a comment or visit the online pages of the respective organizations.
Clear skies and happy NAW!
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PAGASA will celebrate the NAW with a week-long activity which will be highlighted by the following:
1. Free Planetarium Show
2. Stargazing and Telescoping Sessions
3. Star Party contest for (8) Public & Private School Science Club Members at the PAGASA
Observatory (First-come, first-serve basis)
4. Distribution of posters in Astronomy to visiting schools at the Planetarium and
Astronomical Observatory, free of charge.
Reservations for the Planetarium will be made at the PAGASA Central Office on a first-come, first-served basis.
Stargazing and telescoping sessions will be from 7:00 to 11:00 pm every night at the Astronomical Observatory, UP Compound, Diliman, Quezon City. The public, especially the students and teachers are invited to the sessions.
In connection with the celebration of the National Astronomy Week on 20-24 February 2012, The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), will conduct a Star Party Contest for the eight (8) Public & Private High Schools (first-come, first-served basis) on 24 February 2012 at 3:00 P.M. until dawn at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory, U.P. Compound, Diliman, Quezon City.
The contest will be open to high school students, both public and private from Metro Manila. The maximum number of contestants is nine (9) students who should be members of their Science Club and one (1) Science Adviser.
Star Party Contest Rules and Regulation will be given/discussed upon registration of the eight (8) participating schools on 24 February 2012.
Prizes at Stake:
1st Prize: P5,000.00
2nd Prize: P4,000.00
3rd Prize: P3,000.00
5 Consolation Prize: P2,000.00
Certificates of participation will be issued to all contestants.
For further inquiries, please contact Engr. Dario Dela Cruz, Chief, Space Science and Astronomy Section at telephone number 434-2715 or visit our website at http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph
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Registration for the different competitions can be done by e-mailing your confirmation together with the list of participants to email@example.com. You may contact PAS President, Ian Allas at 09063165154 or 09391682834.
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National Astronomy Week Celebration in RTU:
Feb. 14: Opening
Feb. 15: Planetarium Show
Feb. 16: Exhibit Day
Feb. 17: Closing
This is a long-overdue post. 😛 I was really busy during the past few weeks so I never found enough time to write a blog. Anyway…
Last February, the Filipino astronomy community celebrated the 18th National Astronomy Week, the theme for which was “Astronomy Transforming the Culture of Learning Toward Nation Building”.
As part of this major celebration, the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc) organized two public observation events based on the concept of ‘Sidewalk Astronomy’ last February 25 at the Quezon Memorial Circle and last February 27 at the Rizal Park.
Sidewalk Astronomy refers to the activity of setting up telescopes in an urban setting for a profit or non-profit basis as an entertainment or for public education. With the coming and growth of organized amateur astronomical groups, sidewalk astronomy has become associated with public education about astronomy via free public viewing for anyone who wishes to look through the telescope.
It’s like bringing astronomy to as many people as possible through public observations. 😀
Both events started at 6:00 PM. Even though the sky was a bit cloudy throughout that week and light pollution is a huge concern when observing in urban areas, we were still lucky enough to catch glimpses of the celestial objects like Jupiter, Saturn, bright Sirius, the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula through our telescopes. Unfortunately, the Moon – our favorite viewing target – did not rise until past midnight so we were not able to see it.
During the last public viewing at the Rizal Park, there were a lot of people who came by to peek through the telescopes. Most of them were families spending time together at the park. At first, it was a real challenge keeping the crowd – especially the kids – from bumping the telescopes. Everyone was too excited. 😀 Nonetheless, we soon were able to make the viewing more organized so that everyone had a chance to peek through the telescopes.
Some of my fellow orgmates also gave short lectures on skygazing using Stellarium and astronomy books to those waiting in line.
It was fun to see people enjoying the view of the night sky. 🙂 I suddenly realized that I so love the job of promoting astronomy with many people especially to the young ones; hearing about how amazed they are while looking up the sky is truly priceless. 🙂
It eventually become cloudier as the night went on. As it was already late and there was almost nothing that could be seen above except thick grey clouds, we decided to end the activity at around 11:00 PM.
The event was enjoyable! 🙂 To us, it was a really memorable way of capping off the celebration of the National Astronomy Week in the Philippines.
To my fellow amateur astronomers, I suggest that you try sidewalk astronomy, too. I have found it to be a truly rewarding experience. People are very appreciative of the effort that I and my orgmates have given and I also made new friends along the way while having a great time.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in this event, especially to RTU Astronomical Society and cheers to those organizations who also held their events for this year’s NAW celebration.
May the goal of sharing the night sky to everyone continuously unite us all.
Ad astra per aspera! 🙂
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Photos by Julee Ann Olave and Ana Geronimo of UP AstroSoc