To the lay spectator it may be nothing more than a dot on the sun’s disc; but the transit of Venus, to the astronomer, amateur and professional alike, is hugely significant.
Whether for the sheer visual treat of a silhouetted Venus or for the thrill of scientific experimentation, Bangaloreans are keeping their fingers crossed for clear skies on Wednesday morning. The transit will be visible between sunrise and 10.22 a.m. in the city. It will next take place only 105 years later (in 2117).
The historical significance of the transit cannot be underestimated, said Sabyasachi Chatterjee, professor at Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA). The celestial phenomenon helped astronomers of the 1700s calculate the distance between the earth and the sun and later, helped measure interplanetary distances in our solar system and beyond. “The distance between the Earth and sun (150 million km) is now a basic astronomical unit, used much like the metre scale in our ordinary life.”
The IIA has made special arrangements for public viewing of the transit on their campus and a live telecast of the event from observatories around the country.
The vantage point
Meanwhile, amateur astronomers, armed with telescopes, binoculars fitted with suitable filters, have been scouting the city for a suitable perch to view the event. The Bangalore Astronomical Society would arrange telescopes with visual filters at Lalbagh. Naveen Nanjundappa, vice-president of the society and an amateur astronomer, said, “We have arranged about six different ways for people to view the transit from 6.30 a.m. to 10.30 a.m., from simple pinhole cameras to projections on a large screen in the gardens.”
Watch at home
People can view Venus’s transit from their homes too, he said. “People could use a mirror to get a reflection of the sun on their walls,” suggested Mr. Nanjundappa, who cautioned that people should view the sun only with certified optical objects and telescopes installed with visual filters.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium has arranged five telescopes on its campus for public viewing between 7 a.m. and 9.30 a.m., according to B.S Shylaja, director of the planetarium. Two demonstration experiments will be conducted by student volunteers explaining the importance of the transit, and a special sky theatre show on the transit will be open for people throughout the day, she added.
A special arrangement has been made for public at IIA where a live telecast from various observatories, including those in the Himalayas, will be made available. Details can be had from 77951-44198/ 22541298.