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Rare Astronomical Event Today!

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 | Author:

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a planet crossing the face of the Sun!

To be more exact, Venus is making its extremely rare transit in front of the Sun today, at about 5:04pm CDT. During this time, its silhouette will be visible on the Sun’s disc, like a tiny version of an eclipse. In the past, this transit has been used to calculate the size of the solar system. Now, though, it’s just an incredibly rare astronomical event.

How rare is this? Well, that depends; the transit of Venus is on a bit of an odd cycle. These transits happen in pairs eight years apart (the last transit was in 2004). These pairs, however, are separated by spans alternating between 121.5 years and 105.5 years. Prior to the 2004 one, the last Venusian transit was in 1882, 121.5 years earlier. That means the next one will happen in 2117. So if you’re going to see Venus transiting the Sun, this is your only chance.

Of course, you can’t just look up at the sun and see it; you’ll seriously damage your eyes. That’s doubly, triply, and sextuply so for a plain telescope; you might as well just sear your cornea out with a soldering iron. However, there are ways to safely see the transit: Article Continues…

Category: Space & Beyond

Rare Lunar Eclipse Tonight

Monday, December 20th, 2010 | Author:

Full lunar eclipses are pretty darn cool; The moon turns dark along the edge, then becomes a deep rust colored red before reversing the process a couple hours later.

Admittedly, they’re not quite as spectacular as a total solar eclipse. No sudden darkening of the sky – it’s already dark out. The time to go from partial to totality and back is generally 4-5 hours, making progress hard to determine unless you have a camera.

However, it is still one of the only astronomical events you can observe, even in areas with a lot of light pollution, such as cities. They’re also much more common than solar eclipses – there’s usually one or two lunar eclipses each year, and they can be viewed from a much larger viewing area.

This particular eclipse can be viewed in its totality all through North and Central America. South America, West Africa, and most of Europe will be able to see part of the eclipse before it sets. Australia, and Eastern Asian countries can see the last part of the eclipse after the moon rises. For exact times, we suggest swinging by NASA Science’s page about the event. Article Continues…

Category: OWC Unplugged