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Astronomical events visible in the Deh Cho
Next transit of Venus not until 2117

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 17, 2012

Deh Cho residents have the chance to watch a trio of astronomical events in the next four weeks, one of which won't occur for another 113 years over the NWT.

NNSL photo/graphic

Stephen Rowan, an amateur astronomy enthusiast in Fort Simpson, has a pair of eclipse glasses ready so that he can watch both the upcoming annular eclipse and the transit of Venus. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

"It's a busy time," said James Pugsley, the president of Astronomy North, a society dedicated to northern sky education and outreach.

The first of the events is an annular eclipse that will take place on May 20. An annular eclipse is similar to a total eclipse except that even at its peak the moon doesn't fully cover the disk of the sun, Pugsley said.

During an annular eclipse, the location on Earth from which the eclipse is viewed determines the length of the event and the amount of the sun that is covered, based on perspective. In the Deh Cho, the eclipse will begin just before 6 p.m. on Sunday and at its peak at 6:52 p.m., approximately half of the sun will be covered. The eclipse will be finished by 7:52 p.m.

"All we have to hope for is clear skies," Pugsley said.

Although the event is visible to the naked eye, it's important that people don't look directly at the sun during the eclipse, he said.

"There's a great risk of doing damage to your eye," he said.

Proper equipment with a suitable solar filter should be used. This equipment includes eclipse goggles or glasses, a solar telescope or a regular telescope with a suitable filter, said Pugsley. Instructions on how to build pinhole projection devices, another viewing alternative, can be found online.

For those who don't have the right equipment, the eclipse will be viewed across the world live via a variety of websites, Pugsley said.

"This will be a great warm up for the transit of Venus," he said.

On June 5, Venus will appear in silhouette as it crosses the face of the sun, moving between the Earth and the sun. This event, which can also be seen with the naked eye, will not happen again until 2117. The next transit of Venus that will be visible from the NWT won't happen until 2125.

During this transit, all of the territory, except for the southeastern corner, is well positioned to see the entire event, Pugsley said. The Yukon, Alaska, northern British Columbia and parts of Asia and Australia will also have a view of the full transit.

In the Deh Cho, the transit will begin at approximately 4:05 p.m. as Venus begins to touch the solar disk. Viewers in the North will be able to see Venus move away from the sun at 10:49 p.m., approximately 33 minutes before sunset.

"It's an exciting opportunity to learn about our star," said Pugsley.

Because the transit also involves the sun, it's important to use the same viewing precautions as for the annular eclipse.

Stephen Rowan, an amateur astronomy enthusiast in Fort Simpson, is looking forward to both of the solar events. Because of its rarity, Rowan is particularly interested in the transit of Venus.

"I'd be fascinated to see Venus from here," he said.

Just before the transit, Deh Cho residents will have the chance to see another event, this one involving the moon.

Just before dawn on June 4, the full moon will undergo a partial eclipse. At the peak of the event, 37 per cent of the moon will be immersed in the Earth's dark inner shadow.

In the Deh Cho, the partial eclipse will begin at 3:59 a.m. The early stages of the eclipse will be visible but the moon will set before mid-eclipse is reached, Pugsley said.

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