Begin your Summer with the Transit of Venus

(Photo credit: NASA)

Take a look at the seasonal sky this week and see if you can examine our galaxy the Milky Way, characterized by a stripe of light stretched across the sky. It might be hard, because depending on where you live light pollution can obscure the planets in the night sky. The Milky Way rings the horizon right now. It’s a flat disc about 100,000 light years in diameter, but it’s very difficult to get a full idea of what the shape is like. We are positioned so far out in the galaxy that if other planets did have life they would have a very difficult time finding us. At the core of our galaxy is a super massive black hole and is the major energy source that drives the development of new stars. Being so far away we don’t have to worry too much about the effects of this black hole. Another major highlight of the night sky is Venus, which you can see right now at sunset as it makes its plunge to the sun ending in the upcoming transit of Venus on June 5th. A transit is very much like an eclipse. Venus will pass between the Earth and the sun, but it’s so small that it will just be silhouetted against the sun. It’s best to try and see it now since this event won’t occur again for another 105-121 years. The American Philosophical Society is celebrating this occurrence with all sorts of great activities the weekend before the transit. Let Derrick Pitts guide you through this special event.[audio: st20120521.mp3]

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