Three Observable Events Coming Up!

An annular eclipse showing an “annulus” or ring. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL

I wanted to remind everyone that there is an annular solar eclipse this coming Sunday afternoon (May 20,2012), observable as a partial eclipse throughout all of North America except the East Coast area. An “annular” eclipse is so called because it is not total, and observers along the central path will see an “annulus” or ring of light as the Moon passes in front of the Sun. Observations are better farther to the West. The eclipse is best on a path from West Texas to Northern California, passing right through Albuquerque. The exact timing depends on your geographical location. This page on EarthSky.org has lots of information including maps and timings: http://goo.gl/hqSJL

Check locally for observing events in your area. If you do not know where to start, you can try this NASA page: http://goo.gl/Lwnh9

(If you are in the Denver area, check out this page from the Denver Astronomical Society: http://goo.gl/Or6kJ)

Please do not attempt to observe this with sunglasses or by any other form of direct observation. (For a NASA page on eye safety: http://goo.gl/lW7Md). If you cannot attend one of the provided observing opportunities, you can observe the eclipse through pinhole projection. For more information, see this page from San Francisco’s Exploratorium: http://goo.gl/Hk5vf

There also is a partial eclipse of the Moon, seen only in part throughout North America (except parts of far eastern Canada) on Monday, June 4. Unfortunately this is a minor event and before dawn. No organized pubic observing is planned. You can read more about it here: http://goo.gl/t8KCG

And finally, there is a “transit” of Venus on Tuesday, June 5, also in late afternoon, which is observable in part throughout North America. A transit occurs when a planet moves between the Earth and Sun, and appears as a dot slowing moving across the face of the Sun. It is like an eclipse, although much rarer, and of course the planet is far too small to block out any appreciable amount of sunlight.

For more information, maps, timings and observing hints, please see this page on EarthSky.org: http://goo.gl/SiHKu (For Denver area observers, also please see: http://goo.gl/gXK5Y)

Although the transit may be observed with a good pinhole projection set up, the relatively small apparent size of Venus on the Sun’s disk will make it small and difficult to see. If possible, this one is best viewed at a public event where there are telescopes with filters or more elaborate projection techniques.

Try not to miss the transit, because you will not get another chance. This is the last transit of Venus visible from Earth until the year 2117.

Clear skies and good viewing.

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About Starman

Cosmic Awareness Facilitator. Astronomy, space, physics, science, planets, cosmology, reason, logic, clouds, sky phenomena, the environment, dogs and other animals, and other interesting stuff.
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