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RAW: Telescope available at Laws tomorrow to view transit of Venus

June 4, 2012

Two weeks ago, many of us in the Western United States got the opportunity to see a full or partial annular eclipse of the sun. To those a little further north of the Owens Valley, seeing the ring of fire as the moon went in front of the sun was a marvel— but the partial eclipse seen from our own homes was spectacular as well.

Did this leave you wondering—"What's the next special event in the cosmic dance of our solar system?" Well, wonder no more, for that event is upon us.

This Tuesday, June 5, Venus will transit in front of the sun. This happens when Venus passes directly between the Earth and the Sun. This event is pretty rare, with pairs of transits happening eight years apart followed by a quiet period of over 100 years with no transit being visible from Earth. Given that the last one happened in 2004, don't miss out on this one!

During the transit, Venus will cross the sun over a time period of about 6 hours. This will be seen as a small dark circle moving across the big disk of the sun. However, you should NEVER look directly at
the sun without eye protection. And even looking at the sun with the eye protection you had for viewing the eclipse, you won't see much during the transit without the aid of a telescope....and that's where
the staff of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory come in.

We have partnered with the Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site to host a Venus-transit viewing event. This Tuesday, starting at 2:45 p.m., observatory staff will be at Laws with a telescope set up (with a solar filter) ideally suited for viewing this once-in-a-lifetime event.

The transit starts promptly at 3:06 p.m., and will continue until the sun sets. So come join us for a little while. Our staff will be on hand with telescopes and we'll try as best we can to answer any astronomy related questions you might have. Just don't put it off too long, as your next chance to see this happen will be in December 2117— and no, that's not a typo, the next one will be 105 years!!!

Also, don't forget that the following Saturday, June 9, from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. is the open house of CARMA, the Northern Hemisphere's most powerful millimeter-wave radio astronomy observatory. Throughout the day, CARMA scientists will lead tours of the facility located at Cedar Flat in the White Mountains. For more information about CARMA, visit www.mmarray.org.

For more information about these and other events, visit www.ovro.caltech.edu.

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