Partial solar eclipse and transit of Venus for Lincoln, Nebraska

Released on 05/18/2012, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., May 18th, 2012 —

            Of two significant astronomical events occurring in the next few weeks, only one will be visible from Lincoln, according to Jack Dunn, coordinator of Mueller Planetarium at the University of Nebraska State Museum.

            Lincoln will experience a partial eclipse of the sun on May 20, but the Sun will only be 2 degrees above the horizon when the largest area of the Sun will be covered by the Moon -- which means that most people won't be able to see it. Due to the low probability of seeing anything of the eclipse, Hyde Memorial Observatory in Holmes Park will not open for a viewing of the partial eclipse.

            On June 5, however, there will be an opportunity in Lincoln to observe the transit of Venus. When the planet Venus moves across the face of the Sun as seen from Earth, we experience a fairly rare phenomenon. These transits come in pairs, and there was one in 2004. This will be the last transit of Venus to be seen this century. Historically, astronomers used transits to help determine distances to the Sun and the planet. Today, the transit technique is used to discover extra-solar planets planets around other stars.

            Mueller Planetarium, located in Morrill Hall on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln City Campus, is an indoor theater and has no facility for outside observing. However, Hyde Memorial Observatory will be open on June 5 from 4:30 p.m. through sunset (weather permitting) for viewing of the transit of Venus, sky conditions permitting. Special solar telescopes will be available for safe viewing at the observatory, and there is no admission fee. For Lincoln, the time of first contact for Venus passing in front of the edge of the sun is 5:04 p.m. Greatest transit is 8:26 p.m. (when Venus is in the middle of its path across the Sun). The end of the transit won't be visible in Lincoln because sunset occurs at 8:55 p.m., well before the transit is complete.

            Wherever you are during these solar events, please remember to protect your eyes. Never look directly at the sun with the naked eye or even with sunglasses.

            Although the May 20 eclipse won't be visible, a total solar eclipse will take place Aug. 21, 2017, and Lincoln will be in the path of totality.

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