Texas A&M University-Commerce
5:43 am
Tue June 5, 2012

Venus to Cross the Sun

COMMERCE - Texas A&M University-Commerce invites the public to an open house on Tuesday, June 5  at 5 p.m. to observe an extremely rare chance to watch the planet Venus in transit while it crosses the face of the Sun. This opportunity will not occur again for 105 years.

The event takes place at the university observatory located five miles south of Commerce. Motorists will travel south of Commerce on highway 50 and then turn east on CR 4208. A half mile down is the entrance to the observatory, on the left.

The transit will begin at approximately 5:09 p.m. and will continue until well after sunset. Viewers will be able to observe a black dot traveling across the bright disk of the Sun. Since a special device or filter is needed to avoid damaging the eyes, the observatory will be providing telescopes with specially designed filters to make viewing possible.

“Transits of Venus across the Sun were once considered to be of great importance to science, and huge efforts were expended trying to record them,” said Dr. Kent Montgomery, planetarium director and professor of astronomy. “The explorer James Cook was sent to Tahiti in 1769 to record the times of this phenomenon. The primary purpose of the observation of the transit of Venus was to obtain measurements that could be used to calculate more accurately the distance of Venus from the Sun. If this could be achieved, then the distances of the other planets could be worked out, based on their orbits. During his voyage Cook also observed a transit of Mercury.”

It will take Venus more than six hours to cross the face of the Sun, but from Texas only the first half of the transit will be visible before the sun sets. 

This event is open to the public and is free to attend. The open house will begin at 5 p.m. and will continue until after dark.

Click here for directions to the observatory and more information about the planetarium.