Tonight, a celestial event will take place just before sunset in the skies over Evansville, the likes of which will not be seen again in your lifetime.
Visible only with proper eye protection, a rare transit of Venus will take place in the west.
To say that planetary transits are rare events is an understatement, and transits involving Venus are even rarer.
Transits tend to occur in groups and Venus is no exception. Similar events occurred in 1761/1769, 1872/1874 and 2004. The upcoming Transit of Venus event is part of the 2004/2012 series. The next one will not occur until 2117.
Astronomically speaking, a transit occurs when one celestial object passes in front of another one. In this case, the planet Venus moves between us and the Sun. Venus will appear as a small, slowly moving, round spot on the face of the sun while the transit is in progress. This event may not be viewed directly, but only using properly filtered equipment.
Readers are advised never to stare directly at the Sun, with or without a telescope, on June 5 or at any other time! Serious eye damage may result.
A Transit of Venus event at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science kicks off with a lecture entitled "The Last Transit of Venus in Your Lifetime" to be presented at 4 p.m.. by Mitch Luman, the Evansville Museum's Science Director. The 30-minute lecture will take place in the Museum's Old Gallery.
Beginning at 5 p.m., members of the Evansville Astronomical Society will set up telescopes in the Museum parking lot to assist guests in observing the event. Other visual aids will be available as well. Our Transit of Venus event officially will end when the sun sets, carrying Venus along with it, just before 8:00 p.m.
This whole thing is free, by the way.
For more information on the science behind the transit of Venus, please visit http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/18may_venustransit/.