Saturday, October 23, 2021

Venus Shines Bright in the West

Looking West, 9:00 PM, April 27th. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Looking West, 9:00 PM, April 27th. SUBMITTED PHOTO


By Mike P. Usher

Venus is still shining brightly in the west, for now. In just over a month Venus will shrink to a bright crescent and then temporarily vanish while it crosses over into the morning sky. Typically it remains invisible in the glare of the Sun for a week or two – but this time is not typical. Late in the afternoon on June 5, Venus will pass directly in front of the Sun and will be briefly visible as a tiny black spot on the face of our home star. As Venus reaches its closest point to the Earth, at the same time the disk of the planet should be visible to the naked, but protected, eye. This will be your last chance to see the disk of another planet with just your eyes until 2117!

Now let’s talk protection. All homemade methods to protect your eyes from the glare of the Sun are unsafe. Only a commercial product specifically designed to handle the radiation is required for safety’s sake. Such products are available on the internet but may sell out fast as June 5th approaches – this is why we are talking about the transit now, to provide sufficient lead time for your order. Send me an e-mail for internet suppliers if you are interested. No satisfactory eye protection will be available in any local stores, with one exception. At your local shop selling welding supplies you can pick up #14 arc-welding glass for a few dollars. Purchase nothing less than #14! After the transit is over keep your purchase; you will need it again on August 21st, 2017. Not for another transit, but for a total eclipse of the Sun! (Not on Marco, but close – South Carolina).

We have a bright comet heading our way in March/April of 2013! Comet PANSTARRS was discovered last June heading for its rendezvous with the Sun on March 9; at its closest point to the Sun it will be well inside Mercury’s orbit. When it emerges into the evening sky it may be as bright as Vega or Capella. This comet is probably making its initial trip around the Sun; virgin comets are notoriously unpredictable and often fizzle out – but if it doesn’t, remember you heard it here first!

See you next time!

Mr. Usher is President of the Everglades Astronomical Society which meets every second Tuesday at 7:00PM at the Norris Center, Cambier Park, Naples.

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