Astronomy Alert – Join Us For Free “Transit of Venus” Observations – Jackson and Canal Sts., Union Station, Chicago, IL – Next one is in 2117!
Yes, we keep up on science issues as best we can as well (we’re a full-service political party). There is no subject under the sun that affects the human race that we are not interested in. And we do, of course, strongly support science education in the schools and everywhere else. So, in that spirit we present to you: the Transit of Venus, 2012! We will be at the corner of Jackson and Canal Streets (diagonally across from Union Station) at 4:30 PM Tuesday, June 5th, with some welding goggles with #14 glass and perhaps a prepared telescope and some other paraphernalia to give free observations of the Transit of Venus. Join us! [Instructions on how to make your own safe solar viewer and a chart for the times of the Transit from where you are observing are at the end of this article.]
What’s the big deal about the Transit of Venus, anyway? Well, frankly, it is no big deal in the sense of its physical impact on Earth and its inhabitants. Pseudo-scientists (like astrologers) and frauds (like psychics and faith healers) are making grandiose claims about the “spiritual” impact of the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. In fact, the planet Venus is making transits across the face of the sun every year – we on Earth are just not in a position to see all these transits of Venus. The phenomenon has a very simple and materialistic basis: Venus’ (and Mercury’s) orbits around the Sun are closer to the Sun than is Earth’s orbit. So, sometimes these two inner planets pass directly between the Earth and the Sun and we can actually observe their shadows as as they cross the face of the Sun. It’s a cool thing to see, if you’re into astronomy… and it doesn’t happen every year – or even every decade. While transits of Mercury are fairly common – as many as 14 per century – Venus transits happen rarely. They occur in odd cycles of transits which recur every 243 years, with gaps between pairings of 121.5 and 105.5 years. The first transit of Venus in this current “pairing” took place on 8 June, 2004; this next transit, which will occur tomorrow evening (5 June 2012), will be the last one for a very long time. In fact, the next transit of Venus visible from Earth will occur in 105.5 years from now – in 2117 – long after 99.999999% of us are dead. So what do you think now, wiseguy? Still don’t care to bother to look up into the sky tomorrow night to see the Transit of Venus? Huh? Well? Thought so.
Historically, the Transit of Venus was a major astronomical event because the precise measurement of the length of time it took for Venus to pass across the face of the Sun was used to do as accurately as possible, an actual determination of the size of the Solar System, as well as to perfect other calculations of the relative distances between planets and to predict the exact time of future transits of Venus. It wasn’t until 1627 that the great German scientist Johannes Kepler accurately predicted the next Transit of Venus (which occurred, on schedule, four years later, in 1631). Pulling off predictions like this back in those days was a big deal, and required careful observations along with the application of then brand-new mathematical ideas that were among the greatest discoveries made during the Scientific Revolution of the Renaissance period of western civilization. These discoveries were only made possible after the successful struggle to end centuries of suppression of scientific research imposed upon European scholars by the Catholic Church. This systematic and brutal attempt by Catholic Church authorities to protect the dogma that God (or the Devil) was the sole cause for everything from measles to Solar Eclipses – a campaign of Ecclesiastical ignorance against scientific knowledge which cost many courageous scientists and philosophers (most notably, Giordano Bruno) their lives – is one of the primary reasons why Enlightenment philosophers demanded that there be a strict separation between the Church(/Mosque/Temple) and the State.
Ignorance dies a slow death: it wasn’t until 1992 that the Catholic Church “forgave” the great Italian astronomer, Galileo, for discovering that the Sun does not revolve around the Earth. The Catholic Church had originally threatened to murder him for publishing his findings that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and that the Sun had spots on it that came and went mysteriously (in other words, it wasn’t a “perfect” creation of God). When an elderly man, Galileo was hauled in front of and placed on trial by the monstrous “Holy Inquisition” and “shown the instruments” that would be used to torture him if he did not publicly repudiate his own correct publications on the subject of the Sun. He was actually forced to repudiate his own work or face torture and possibly being burned at the stake, as had actually been done to his fellow scientist, Giordano Bruno, 33 years earlier. We must learn this lesson of history, which was paid for in blood: never again shall religious authority be allowed to have so much power over the minds of women and men! For the strict separation of Church and State!
CAUTION: IF YOU STARE AT THE SUN WITHOUT PROPER EYE PROTECTION YOU WILL DAMAGE YOUR EYESIGHT AND YOU MAY EVEN GO BLIND! NEVER OBSERVE THE SUN DIRECTLY OR THROUGH BINOCULARS OR A TELESCOPE THAT DOES NOT HAVE A SPECIALLY DESIGNED SOLAR FILTER FOR SAFE OBSERVATION, OR USE A PINHOLE BOX TO MAKE INDIRECT OBSERVATIONS [instructions below]!
We’re putting together some equipment to use to safely observe the Transit of Venus. The safest and cheapest way to do this is to purchase a pair of welding goggles and install some #14 (or #13) welder’s glass in them and use them to observe the transit, which will begin just after 5:00 PM on Tuesday, June 5. Do not use welder’s goggles that have lenses other than #13 or #14! You can damage your eyes with lenses that allow too much ultraviolet light through them!
This website has an excellent article and chart which describes the event:
You can also construct a “pinhole camera” to observe the sun, sunspots and the Transit of Venus. You want to make the camera as long as possible so you’ll have an image of the Sun large enough to see Venus. Here are links to some websites that show how to do this:
http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/2443-solar-eclipse-viewer.html The longer the box, the bigger the image of the Sun will be, so look for as long a box as you can get… or a big mailing tube. One website said that a meter- (3-foot) long box would be best. I suggest that you make a couple boxes of various sizes to see which ones work best; at least 2 feet long. A shoebox will probably project an image of the Sun that will be too small to see Venus well. Practice with it today and tomorrow morning so you can get used to making it work before the Transit begins.
Have fun… and remember to always keep the Church/Mosque/Temple and State separate!