Sky-watchers await Transit of Venus on June 6; a group of Delhi students will view full event from Shanghai

To enable astronomy lovers to watch and understand the historical and scientific significance of the “Transit of Venus”, Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators is conducting a public observation at Jantar Mantar here on June 6.

This event organised by the non-government organisation in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India will be conducted on a large scale to familiarise sky-watchers with the unique aspects of this rare astronomical event.

Three telescopes and commensurate number of projection screens would be set up at the observatory. The Masonic instruments will be used by students to calculate the distance between the Sun and the Earth.

According to SPACE president C. B. Devgun, on June 6 Venus will pass directly between the Earth and the Sun appearing as a black spot gliding across the fiery face of the Sun. “Sky gazers will be able to witness the event from 5-22 a.m. to 10-22 a.m. The next transit will occur only in 2117, only after 105 years. The astronomical event can be viewed only from some parts of the world.”

Pointing out that the entire event will be visible from some Asian cities, Mr. Devgun said: “From India, sky-watchers will not be able to see the first and second contacts when planet Venus will be touching the Sun's border view. This is the reason why we are taking an expedition to China.”

On this rare celestial occurrence, the NGO is taking a scientific expedition of 50 students from schools in Delhi to Shanghai to observe the transit on June 6.

“For this group, it will be a double bonanza as they will also be able to view the Partial Lunar Eclipse on June 4, which is not visible from India. A series of scientific experiments will also be carried out there.”

Mr. Devgun and Sneh Kesari, senior educator from the NGO, will be accompanying the students to help them conduct safe observations and guide them on astrophotography. They will help students in capturing the starry moments.

Nehru Planetarium will also conduct the event at its Teen Murti House premises. There will be a sky watch, viewing of webcasts and skype exchanges from Hanle, Sydney and other locations of the world.

According to Planetarium Director N. Rathnasree, viewing the transit through the many projection arrangements scattered around the Teen Murti House campus will be a stimulating exercise for the young and the old alike.

“Special projection boxes will allow completely safe views of large projected images of the Sun. Inside the campus, a large dark room for projection will be constructed inside which a very large projected image of the sun will be displayed. Some telescopes equipped with safe solar filters will allow eyepiece views of the transit for the visitors.”

Students will be measuring the contact timings towards the end of the event, using the method of De Lisle, a re-measurement of the astronomical unit will be undertaken by them. “As we will be missing part of the event, the usual method of Halley, wherein the contact timings from beginning to end are measured, is not possible from India. However, the alternate method of De Lisle can be used by Indian observers.”

During the event, students at the Planetarium will also be making measurements of the relative angular diameters of Venus and the Sun.

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