On June 5, 2012, a unique celestial event will take place, never to be repeated in our lifetimes. The planet Venus will align itself perfectly between the Earth and the Sun. This rare alignment will allow Venus to be visible as it passes directly across the face of the Sun in an event that astronomers call a transit. The 2012 Transit of Venus will last nearly 7 hours, and it will provide an extraordinary viewing event for observers around the world. Unfortunately, this event is not well positioned for audiences in the continental United States and will only be visible to Georgia viewers for about 2 hours as the Sun sets in the west. An additional limitation in viewing the Sun is the danger posed to the naked eye, therefore special equipment and techniques are required to create a safe observing environment.
In an effort to make this event more accessible to the public, Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center (CCSSC) has partnered with NASA and the International Space School Education Trust (ISSET) to provide a multi-continent webcast of the 2012 Transit of Venus. Audiences throughout the world, including those in Georgia, will have an opportunity to experience this entire event safely via the internet and NASA TV. CCSSC teams will travel to both the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and the Australian outback near Alice Springs to be in optimal observing conditions to acquire images and video of the entire transit. Additionally, one CCSSC team will remain in Georgia to provide local images and video of the event and Columbus State University student, Katherine Lodder, will provide a second set of U.S. images from Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The three continental teams will be equipped with hydrogen alpha, calcium K-line, and solar white light filters that will allow for spectacular imaging of this event. These filters are provided by the CCSSC’s Mead Observatory, where they are used regularly to obtain images and animations of solar phenomena such as sunspots, flares, plages, faculae, prominences, and filaments. Typically, students from Columbus State study these solar phenomena to better understand the Sun’s cycle of activity and its interaction with the Earth. However, during the Transit of Venus, these solar features will become, for one final period in our lives, the stunning backdrop against which Venus’s planetary disk will cross the Sun’s 865,000-mile wide face.
With your help, this could be one of the largest astronomical webcast events on record. View the transit with the CCSSC team at www.ccssc.org/transit2012.html or by linking through our partners at NASA’s Sun Earth Day website, http://sunearthday.nasa.gov.