June's Venus Transit Should Provide Spectacular Images and Research Opportunities

CCSSC travel sitesCOLUMBUS, Ga. – Partnering with NASA, researchers from Columbus State University's Coca-Cola Space Science Center will travel to Mongolia and Australia in June to document Venus’ trip between the Earth and sun, a celestial event that won’t occur again for another 105 years.

Stationed in Utah and Columbus in North America, Alice Springs in Australia and the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, space science center staff will photograph, shoot video and webcast Venus as it moves across the face of the sun in an event that astronomers call a transit. The 2012 Transit of Venus will last nearly seven hours from June 5-6, providing extraordinary viewing opportunities for observers around the world, said Shawn Cruzen, executive director of the center and a Columbus State University astronomy professor.

"For astronomy fans, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Cruzen said. “Unfortunately audiences in the continental United States will only be able to see a portion of the transit as the sun sets in the west. An additional limitation in viewing the sun is the danger posed to the naked eye. Special equipment and techniques are required to create a safe observing environment."

In an effort to make this event more accessible to the public, Columbus State University's Coca-Cola Space Science Center has partnered with NASA and the International Space School Education Trust to provide a multi-continent webcast of the 2012 Transit of Venus. The space science center is believed to be the only university-affiliated institution partnering with NASA to provide images from remote locations for its webcast

Audiences throughout the world will have an opportunity to experience this entire event safely via the Internet and NASA’s TV channel. Coca-Cola Space Science Center teams are traveling to Mongolia and the Australian outback near Alice Springs to be in optimal observation sites to acquire images and video of the entire transit.

Another team will remain in Georgia to provide local images and video, and Columbus State University student Katherine Lodder will provide a second set of U.S. images from Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. All teams will be equipped with hydrogen alpha, calcium K-line, and solar white light filters that will allow for spectacular imaging of the event, Cruzen said.

Those filters are provided by the center's Mead Observatory, where they are used regularly to obtain images and animations of solar phenomena such as sunspots, flares, plages, faculae, prominences, and filaments. Typically, students from Columbus State study solar phenomena to better understand the sun's cycle of activity and its interaction with the Earth. However, during the Transit of Venus, these solar features will become, for one final period in their lives, a stunning backdrop against which Venus' planetary disk will cross the sun's 865,000-mile face.

View the webcast by visiting http://www.ccssc.org/transit2012.html or by linking through the NASA partners at NASA's Sun Earth Day website, http://sunearthday.nasa.gov.

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NOTE to media: Dr. Shawn Cruzen is available for interviews via Skype or in person until May 18. He can be reached at (706) 649-1785 or by email at shawn@ccssc.org. Other Coca-Cola Space Science Center representatives will be available after May 18, until the June 5-6 event.

Image, above: Logos of the Coca-Cola Space Science Center indicate foreign locations where its teams will be stationed, in Mongolia and Australia. (Download highest-resolution version of map.)