Maui News

Mauians Look to Sky for Rare Venus Transit

June 5, 2012, 8:58 AM HST
* Updated June 5, 3:09 PM
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The sun was hidden by partly cloudy skies as Mauians prepared for the transit of Venus taking place this afternoon (June 4, 2012). Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

Hawai’i is expected to be the best place in the 50 states to view today’s Transit of Venus, according to officials at the Jhamandas Watumull Planetarium at the Bishop Museum.

The astronomical event is expected to begin at 12:09 p.m. and last until 6:42 p.m. HST, when the planet will appear as a black disc crossing in front of the face of the sun.  Other locations in the US will only witness a portion of the event during the sunset hours.

Officials say it is one of the rarest predictable phenomenon to occur in the sky, and is not expected to happen again until 2117.

Seabury crater crew. Courtesy photo.

Since the transits occur in pairs, eight years apart, the first transit in this cycle happened in June of 2004.  Officials at the Bishop Museum planetarium say the event was not visible in Hawai’i because it occurred after sunset in the islands.

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Planetarium staff warn that is never safe to view the sun directly except during the extremely rare moments of a total solar eclipse.

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The importance of the event, staff explain, is that it set a baseline measurement through triangulation that allowed astronomers to measure the distance of other objects in the solar system.

June 5, 2012 Venus transit over Maui. Image courtesy: Lighthaus Camera, Kyle Johnson.

There are several Maui events that provide an opportunity for safe viewing.

Park staff at Haleakala National Park will join science students from Seabury Hall in helping visitors to view the phenomena using “sunspotter” scopes and “sunpeeps” (available at cost in the park).  Park officials say number 14 welder’s glasses and projection boxes are also being used for safe viewing.

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In West Maui, dozens of couples are expected to renew their vows during the once-in-a-lifetime event at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa.

Couples participating in the event will arrive at 3 p.m., with a vow renewal ceremony begining at the resort’s Statue Gardens at 4 p.m.

The historic transit will be broadcast on a big screen by the pool, allowing access for guests and the public to experience the phenomenon all afternoon.

The resort’s director of astronomy, Eddie Mahoney, who also leads the nightly Tour of the Stars program, will be available to answer questions.

The resort is home to a Celestron high-definition 14-inch aplanic telescope, Hawaii’s only recreational HD telescope.

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