Astronomy buffs can watch Venus move across the sun on Tuesday afternoon at safe observing stations in Saanich and Victoria. This undated photo in the ultraviolet spectrum from NASA shows Venus transiting the sun.

Astronomy buffs can watch Venus move across the sun on Tuesday afternoon at safe observing stations in Saanich and Victoria. This undated photo in the ultraviolet spectrum from NASA shows Venus transiting the sun.

Seeing a celestial yardstick

Transit of Venus across sun won’t happen again for 105 years

Tuesday marks a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch a rare astronomical event high in the skies – the transit of Venus across the face of the sun.

When Venus travels between the Earth and the sun, visible on Vancouver Island from 3:05 until 9:49 p.m. on Tuesday June 5, it will carry with it historical, as well as celestial, significance.

Beginning in 1639 when the transit of Venus was first observed and recorded, it allowed early astronomers to give a sense of distance and size of objects in the solar system.

“Nowadays we have radar and lasers … and different ways of measuring distance to planets, but in the old days … by measuring Venus’ size against the surface of the sun as it went across, (astronomers) were able to determine the actual size of Venus and of the sun,” said Sherry Buttnor, with the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

“These were smart people. They didn’t have all these computers and fancy stuff, but they were able to do that just by looking at the sun.

“They were actually very, very close with their predictions.”

The image of Venus against the sun was used to determine an accurate estimate of the scale of the solar system.

A transit of Venus is rare due to the differing orbital speeds and planes of Earth and Venus – the next is in 2117. The transit has only been viewed seven times since Galileo’s invention of the telescope in 1609.

“It’s neat to watch these things unfold in front of your eyes because it gives you a sense of motion,” said Buttnor, who will be photographing the transit from Metchosin. “We really are orbiting the sun. Things are moving out there.

“(Viewing this) is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Watch the transit

Viewing the sun though No. 14 or darker welders’ glass is generally considered safe, though the glass, if scratched or nicked, opens the viewer to permanent vision loss.

The safest viewing method is pinhole projection, achieved by filtering sunlight through a pinhole in a piece of cardboard onto another blank surface. The projection is remarkably clear and removes the threat of vision damage caused by staring at the sun.

Astronomers from the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society will set up transit viewing stations and solar telescopes in front of the Royal B.C. Museum, atop of Mount Tolmie and at Cattle Point in Oak Bay between 3 p.m. and sunset on Tuesday.

The University of Victoria Department of Physics and Astronomy will also host a free viewing of the transit of Venus on the fifth floor of the Bob Wright Centre from 3 to 9 p.m.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

An SUV sits where it crashed through the front window of the 2:18 Run store in Fairfield Plaza, after the driver appeared to lose control on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Phil Nicholls)
Driver crashes through front window of Victoria running store in Fairfield

Phil Nicholls of 2:18 Run said crash sounded like an earthquake at first

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Biosolids at Hartland still being placed on landfill in Saanich

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

Seismic upgrading and expansion work at Victoria High School is about a year behind due to pandemic-related factors, the Greater Victoria School District announced. (Photo by Cole Descoteau)
Victoria High School seismic work, expansion a year behind schedule

Greater Victoria School District now targeting September 2023 for reopening of historic school

Elk Lake Drive area resident Michael Blayney protests a proposed multi-building development for his Royal Oak neighbourhood, outside Saanich municipal hall on Monday (June 14). (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Demonstrators protest 11-storey development on Elk Lake Drive in Saanich

Saanich locals gather at municipal hall to protest development, public hearing goes Tuesday

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is calling on Transport Canada to rescind its ban to Feb. 28, 2022 on cruise ship stops in Canada, to allow planning to begin in advance of a reopening of the cruise industry next year.
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority seeks end to federal ban on cruise ship stops in Canada

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO hopes cruises will resume by 2022

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read