Safe Solar Viewing

Over the next three weeks, we are fortunate to be able to observe two fascinating solar events.  First, on Sunday, May 20th, 2012, there will be an annular eclipse of the sun.  The Reno area is right in the middle of the path of annularity.  While not as spectacular as a total eclipse, this should still prove interesting to observe.  The eclipse begins around 5:15 PM and there will be just under 5 minutes of “annularity” beginning at 6:28 PM.  The “supermoon” that we witnessed earlier in the month is too close to the Earth to completely cover the sun, thus only 94% of the solar surface will be eclipsed.

Then, on June 5th, 2012, we will be treated to the last transit of Venus during our lifetimes.  This unusual event happens in pairs—the last was 2004. Each pair is over 100 years apart though, so if you miss this one you will have to wait until 2117 to see the next one.  When Venus transits, a small black shadow will be cast on the sun’s surface.  Astronomers have previously studied these events to determine the size of the solar system.  This event will begin around 3 PM local time, and will continue through sunset.

Finally, mark your calendars for August of 2017 for the next total solar eclipse in North America when the sun’s shadow will pass through Southern Oregon, just a short drive away.

Please enjoy the sun safely!  You should view the sun only through approved solar glasses.  Check each pair of solar glasses for cracks or defects and discard any that appear damaged.  If you have a telescope, please make sure that you have the proper solar filters for it before using it to view these astronomical events.  Don’t look at the sun with the naked eye, though regular sunglasses, or with developed film negatives.  If you have any questions about viewing the sun safely please call us at 356-7272.

If you’re an astronomy photographer and get some good shots of these events, email us your photos and we’ll post them!

If you’d like more information on the eclipse or Venus’ transit of the sun, check out these websites:

http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/ASE2012/ASE2012.html

http://www.transitofvenus.org/

Happy sun gazing!

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