24 Apr 2012

When Venus keeps its date with the Sun

Planet Venus will have its date with the sun on June 6. The inferior planet (called that as it is closer to the sun), will be seen to move stealthily across the disk of the rising sun. Called a transit, this is a rare astronomical event. A transit of Venus occurs, when Venus passes directly between the sun and the Earth. The last time this thrilling event occurred was in 2004, and the one which will occur in June will be the last one in your lifetime, as the next such alignment will occur only in 2117.
“Transits of Venus are much rarer than those of Mercury. Transits of Venus only occur approximately four times in 243 years. This rare alignment, come in pairs that are eight years apart, but separated by over a century,” said Dr. Iyamperumal, Executive Director, B.M. Birla Planetarium.
What is the importance of this transit? “It helps give accurate estimates of the all important distance scale – the astronomical unit – of the distance between the Earth and the sun. This distance serves as a basis for all other distance determinations in the Universe.
Astronomers at the Birla Planetarium, Chennai will be teaching representatives of every State in India about how to view the transit and the importance of the event.
In connection with this, a special programme called ‘Training the Trainers' has been arranged at the B.M Birla Planetarium, Chennai, on April 24 and 25, for Science Communicators.

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