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The Venus Transit: Coming to a sky near you Tuesday!

Edinboro professor leads telescopic viewing efforts


EDINBORO, Pa. – On Tuesday, residents of Northwestern Pennsylvania will have the unique opportunity to witness an astronomical event that will not occur again for 105 years!

The opportunity for scientists and the general public to view the Transit of Venus won’t come again until 2117.

According to local astronomers, such a transit occurs when the silhouette of Venus passes across the disc of the sun, an event akin to a very small eclipse. Tuesday’s will be only the seventh in recorded history.

Since it is extremely dangerous to stare directly at the sun, residents of Northwestern Pennsylvania will be given a free viewing of the transit through telescopes fitted with safety filters and lenses. Local astronomers, including Edinboro University Professor David Hurd, will offer the free viewing for the whole family at Presque Isle State Park’s Beach No. 7, starting at 6 p.m.

Coming in pairs, the last transit of this century occurred in 2004 with the alignment of the earth, Venus and the sun.

According to astronomers, Venus covers just one percent of the sun’s visible surface. The transit was first observed in the 17th Century, as astronomers first used the event to determine the earth’s distance from the sun.

“That was the Holy Grail of astronomy in the 18th and 19th Centuries,” said Dr. Hurd, Professor of Geosciences and Planetarium Director at Edinboro. “If you could find that unit, you could calculate definitive distances. You could determine how far we are from the sun.”

Dr. Hurd and Jim Gavio, Director of the Erie Planetarium, will be on hand at Beach No. 7 to assist with Tuesday’s telescopic viewings.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, 301 Peninsula Drive, Dr. Hurd and Dr. Ed Halley, a professor from England, will share more about the historical significance of this event. The program is free, open to all ages, and no registration is required. After the TREC lecture, participants may drive out onto Presque Isle State Park and re-assemble at Beach No. 7 for the event.