Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

June 2, 2012

Get ready, watch the transit of Venus safely

Tonight’s and tomorrow’s evening moons will be very full. (Actual time when the moon is directly opposite the sun is 7:11 a.m. tomorrow, the exact time of full moon.)

On both evenings, the moon will quite bright as our companion will be near the part of its orbit where it is closest to Earth. Tonight the moon will appear in the Scorpion while tomorrow night, the moon will have moved into the Serpent Bearer (Ophiuchus).

This group is the 13th constellation along the moon’s and sun’s sky path. The moon is now in the most southerly part of the zodiac, cresting only about 1/3 of the way up in the South in the early morning hours.

The event that many sky gazers have been anticipating is this Tuesday’s Transit of Venus across the sun’s disk, starting just after 6 pm.

To safely see this event, you need No. 2414 welders glasses or you can view the projected image of the sun with a telescope on a white screen.

To aim a telescope at the sun, just look at the shadow of the telescope’s tube on the ground. When the shadow of the tube gets as round as it can be, the telescope is aimed at the sun. If you have a low powered eyepiece in place, you can see the glare of the sun’s disk on the surface of the eye lens by viewing it from the side.

You must never look through the telescope at the sun, for it will quickly fry the central vision region of your retina.

Adjust the telescope so that the disk appears centered. Then bring your poster board into position so it catches the sun’s image about a foot away from the telescope. You may have to adjust the focus to get a sharp image. Then you and several people at the same time can safely the sun’s disk and the small dark dot (the planet Venus).

If it is clear, the Cumberland Astronomy Club will have several telescopes set up in the parking area behind Mountain Ridge High School in Frostburg. These telescopes will have solar filters so you can look through them safely for the sharpest detail.    

The chance of clear skies in this local area then is less than 50 percent. There will be observers in Hawaii, Midway Island, the Middle East and Australia that will have a much better chance of viewing the transit.

Transits of Venus across the face of the sun are rare because of the tilt of the Earth’s orbit to Venus’ orbit. Venus will then be 27 million miles away from the Earth. Our neighbor world will appear only 1/33th as wide as the sun itself. We had our last Venus transit in 2004 and the next one will be in 2117.

In the past, transits of Venus were used to establish the Earth sun distance by having a number of observers note the time of ingress (when Venus’ disk is first completely on the sun’s disk) and time of egress (when Venus’s disk clears the edge of the sun).

  In mid-June, we will have our earliest sunrises of the year (about 4:46 p.m. in the Tri-State area). Summer will officially begin about 7 p.m. on June 20, when the sun’s direct rays reach farthest North to latitude 23.5 degrees. Our latest sunsets will be in late June, when the sun sets about 8:46 p.m.

  In late June, the brilliant planet Venus and the bright planet Jupiter will shine in the eastern dawn with Jupiter above Venus.

  The moon will appear half full in the southern dawn sky on June 11. Then on June 17, the crescent moon will appear close to the bright planet Jupiter in the 5 a.m. dawn.

On June 19 in mid-day, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun (New Moon). A narrow crescent moon will appear to the left of the planet Mercury on June 21 and 22 in the 9:30 p.m. western dusk.

On June 26, the evening moon will appear half full (like a tilted “D”), offering the best views of its craters and mountain ranges through binoculars. On June 27 and 28, the moon will appear near the planet Saturn.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

Text Only
Bob Doyle - Astronomy
  • Odds are good that you didn’t know this

    Odds or Probabilities fascinate many people. There is a special website called and an accompanying location on Facebook at /BookofOdds .This website lists 400,000 odds. Three of the people who are involved in this media display have coauthored a book, “The Book of Odds” that presents some of key odds, drawing from polls and statistics published in journals. The authors are A. Shapiro, L.F. Campbell and R. Wright. This paperback was published this year by Harper Collins with ISBN 978-0-06-206085-3.

    April 20, 2014

  • Early morning lunar eclipse this Tuesday

    For the first time since 2011, our area may see a total lunar eclipse as the moon will pass through the Earth’s deep shadow.

    April 13, 2014

  • Here’s a fine guide to new Cosmos series

    This columnist recommends the new series: “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” presented on FOX on Sundays at 9 p.m. and on the National Geographic channel at 10 p.m. on Monday and Friday evenings.

    April 5, 2014

  • Which species is truly the most successful?

    When the question of success is raised, most of us think of lavish homes, sports arenas, cars or stocks owned.

    March 29, 2014

  • Earth’s climate keeps changing, but why?

    Earth’s climate has been subject to change, long before humans walked the Earth. Why should the climate change?
    The Earth is a dynamic planet, subject to the shifting of the crustal plates (which can lead to increased volcanic eruptions), the advance and retreat of glaciers and changes in the Earth’s motion about the sun (Earth’s axial tilt and the varying ovalness of the Earth’s orbit).

    March 22, 2014

  • History book starts from the beginning

    There is a new world history book, using a great variety of graphs. It is the collaboration of an Italian graphic designer, Valentina D’Efilippo and British journalist James Ball.
    Their book is “The Infographic History of the World,” published this year by Firefly with ISBN – 13: 978-1-77085-316-4.

    March 15, 2014

  • New ‘Cosmos’ debuts on television tonight

    Now that our clocks are on daylight saving time, today’s sunrise and sunset are coming about an hour later than yesterday. Yesterday’s sunrise was about 6:38 a.m.; today’s sunrise is about 7:36 a.m.

    March 8, 2014

  • What do these vital measurements mean?

     A while back, I wrote a column on how the U.S. has firmly held onto British units that the British themselves have abandoned (inch, pound, quart).

    March 1, 2014

  • Here’s an up-to-date guide to the universe

    There has been a surge in beginner’s books about the universe. The number of probable exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) grows by several dozen each month.

    February 22, 2014

  • People and pet food have lots in common

    In our house reside one dog and three cats. I found Chapter 2 in Mary Roach’s “Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal” very interesting.

    February 15, 2014

Latest news
Must Read
House Ads