If you missed the solar eclipse two weeks ago, you may get an even rarer chance this week to see the sun dim when the planet Venus sweeps in front of our home star today. Miss it and the next showing won't be for another 105 years, astronomers say.
"Just knowing that you're seeing something happen that won't be seen by anyone alive today again is a really neat experience," said Holly Gilbert, a solar physicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Only a few transits of Venus have been recorded in human history -- the pair of transits are alternately spaced 105 and 122 years apart. The first was observed by English astronomers Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree in 1639.
The University of North Dakota astronomy team will hold a Venus Transit Open House from 3-7 p.m. at the UND Observatory southwest of Grand Forks.
The facility will provide solar telescopes and special glasses designed for solar viewing, officials said. Activities for children and tours of the observatory will also be featured.
The UND astronomy team also plans a webcast starting at 4:45 p.m. and ending at 11:50 p.m.
To get to the UND Observatory, travel west on U.S. Highway 2 and turn left (south) just past mile marker 346. Turn right at the "T" intersection, drive half a mile west, take the first left and drive another half-mile. The observatory is on the east side of the road.
For more information, call 701-777-6571.
UND Observatory: http://observatory.space.edu/
UND Webcast team: www.sems.und.edu
NASA transit of Venus site incl. viewing map: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/OH/transit12.html
AreaVoices blogger Astrobob has some viewing tips and other activities: astrobob.areavoices.com.