Lifetime chance for Venus-watchers
Manama, May 30, 2012
Bahrain's stargazers are in for a treat next Wednesday when the planet Venus will pass between the Earth and the Sun, meaning it will be visible as a small black dot for around two hours early morning.
It will not be seen again for 121 years and the country's astronomers are preparing to distribute 7,000 pairs of special glasses meant for viewing a solar eclipse so that a lucky few can see it.
What is known as the transit of the Sun by Venus will take place between 5.45am and 7.43am next Wednesday.
The phenomenon will be visible in most parts of the world, but Bahrain Astronomical Society vice-president and Bahrain University applied physics professor Dr Waheeb Alnaser said Bahrain was lucky since it would be among the few places it would be seen very early in the morning - the best time to view the Sun.
"This event was last seen on June 8, 2004 when it was observed in Bahrain for more than six hours," he added.
However, it was previously only observed on December 6, 1882. "Before that, the transits were in 1761, 1769 and 1874," said Dr Alnaser.
The society is planning to distribute special glasses throughout Bahrain, since it will be the last time anyone alive today will see it.
"The next time this will happen is on December 11, 2117," explained Dr Alnaser.
He added Venus' transits occurred in pairs that are eight years apart, but these dual events take place less than once per century.
Prof Alnaser also said that in addition to being rare sky watching events, transits of Venus have played a major role in astronomical history - particularly as they were used to estimate the size of the solar system.
Observations of the 1639 transit provided an estimate of the distance between the Sun and the Earth that was more accurate than any previous estimation.
Next week's transit is expected to provide scientists with a number of other research opportunities.
However, Dr Alnaser warned against trying to view Venus against the Sun without proper eye protection.
"Staring at the Sun without appropriate eye protection can quickly cause serious and often permanent eye damage," he explained. – TradeArabia News Service
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