A celestial phenomenon will occur on June 5, and it (probably) won't happen again in your lifetime.
The transit of Venus will be visible in Virginia starting at 6:03 p.m. Tuesday. Venus will look like a black dot as it passes in front of the sun. This will be the last opportunity to see Venus in transit until 2117. The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) is setting up a number of viewing parties to celebrate the event. As they put it in a press release: "It's like the Kentucky Derby for a horse. You get one shot at this in your lifetime."
Here's where to watch the transit of Venus locally:
- The Sully Historic Site will hold an 18th century astronomical expedition, complete with costumed interpreters who will talk about the significance of the event. It's a unique opportunity to learn more about the science of the time, while using modern techniques to watch the rare event. Park admission is $4. Call 703-437-1794 to reserve a space.
- Cub Run RECenter will host a family-friendly viewing party, complete with solar glasses. The cost is $4 for county residents, $6 for residents of other jurisdictions. For more information, call Cub Run at at 703-817-9407.
For those who are unable to leave the house, NASA will also live-stream the event.
Transits of Venus occur in pairs, which are separated by over 100 years. The last transit occurred in 2004. Mercury is the only other planet that is visible from the earth as it passes by the sun, although those transits occur more frequently. The transits have in the past helped scientists measure the size of the solar system, according to FCPA.
A telescope with a solar filter is the best method for viewing the transit. NASA also advises wearing proper solar viewing glasses to shield the eyes while the transit occurs. Even with glasses, though, it's important to take breaks and not stare at the sun the whole time. More tips are available onNASA's website.
June 5, 1:15 p.m. This article has been changed to reflect an updated time that Venus will be visible in Virgina.