QUEANBEYAN will be one of the best spots in the world to catch the once-in-a-lifetime Transit of Venus phenomenon on June 6, and local astronomers are dusting off their telescopes in preparation.
Local man Steve James, who teaches astronomy at CIT, said the whole eastern side of Australia was uniquely placed to enjoy the rare, daytime phenomenon where Venus passed across the sun.
‘‘We actually get to see it from after sunrise, so we’ll see the entire transit. For Canberra it starts at 8.16am and finishes at 2.44pm.’’
Venus rarely crosses between the sun and the earth and the next transit will not occur for another 106 years. The Transit phenomenon was first recorded in 1639, but it was the chance to witness it again in 1776 that led Captain Cook on his southern journey to Tahiti, and ultimately, to Australia.
Mr James said he was looking forward to viewing the phenomenon with his telescope through a special, solar filter.
‘‘I personally don’t spend much time looking at the sun in my astronomy, but the main thing about this one of course is that it’s the last one for over a hundred years,’’ he said.
‘‘[Venus] will look like a dark spot about a 30th the size of the diameter of the sun, and that dark spot is about as big as the earth, so Venus is about the same size as the earth.
‘‘So if we were standing on Jupiter or something and watching the earth pass across the sun, it would be the same size as that tiny black spot.’’
However Mr James warned people not to look directly at the sun, which can cause blindness.
‘‘It’s actually dangerous to look at the sun: you certainly cannot do it with the naked eye or binoculars or a telescope unless you use special filters,’’ he said.
‘‘The safest way for people to view it is online at transitofvenus.com.au – They’ll have a live webcast, and that’s the safest way to see it. Anything else, and there’s always the risk of permanent blindness if you make a mistake.’’