Stargazers are in for a once in a lifetime treat on Tuesday, 5 June. From about 5pm until sunset the Transit of Venus, when the planet Venus passes between the sun and the earth, will be visible in the Cayman Islands.
Venus will appear as a dark dot, gliding over the surface of the sun.
It’s a rare planetary alignment and if you miss this one, you’ll be waiting until 2117 for your next chance to see it. The Cayman Islands Astronomical Society is, naturally, particularly excited about this and has teamed up with Dart Enterprises to enable interested people to view the cosmic phenomenon.
Dart Enterprises is making a rooftop location available at 62 Forum Lane, Camana Bay and the Astronomical Society will be providing special solar viewing glasses so that the public can watch the phenomenon safely. A number of telescopes will also be set up, with specialist solar filters.
Staring directly at the sun with the naked eye or through a telescope or a camera with a telephoto lens has the potential to severely damage one’s eyesight and the astronomical society want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to see this rare event, without risk of injury.
“If you are thinking of observing the sun from elsewhere then I recommend waiting until close to sunset, so that sun is very low on the horizon and so safer to observe,” says Chris Cooke of the Cayman Islands Astronomical Society. “We are all used to visitors taking photos of the setting sun but this time you will probably be staring at the sun for longer, so take extra care.”
If you’ve heard that welding glasses are safe to observe such events through, beware, says Chris. Only the older type, number 14 is a safe grade. Just in case the weather is cloudy and the sun is obscured, the Astronomical Society is partnering with other astronomical organisations in the Caribbean to transmit live images from other locations.
Not only is the Transit of Venus one of the rarest predictable astronomical events, but it has also enabled astronomical measurements – particularly the distance between the sun and the earth – to be made.
The organised viewing of the Transit of Venus is a free event and open to all. For those interested in other star gazing opportunities the Astronomical Society holds a monthly meeting a Pedro Castle a few days after the new moon, to which all are welcome.
For more information contact the Cayman Islands Astronomical Society on 947-3065.