LATHROP – The moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter is aligning with Mars resulting in peace among the planets. With those cosmic words of the turbulent ‘60s by The Fifth Dimension, a blockbuster song was born that many find thought-provoking to this day.
Most probably, no such long-lasting song will be written about the heavenly phenomenon on Tuesday, June 5, when the planet Venus will pass in front of the sun from the Earth’s vantage view for a show that will span six long hours. And, unlike a lunar or a solar eclipse, this planetary show by comparison most likely won’t create that much of a stir with amateur and professional photographers traipsing around to digitally record the phenomenon with their cameras as what happened during the recent annular lunar eclipse.
Jeff Baldwin of the Stockton Astronomical Society readily admits, “It’s not the most exciting event in world history.
“The sun will not darken like an eclipse. Nobody will know it is even happening. There are no tidal forces that will cause anything to happen. But (it) is rare and interesting nonetheless,” he said of the June 5 low-key spectacle.
What makes this a rarity is that Venus will be gliding across the sun “for the last time in over a hundred years,” explained the math teacher at Lathrop High School where he is chairman of the Math and Science Department.
Baldwin said this will take place starting from about 3:15 in the afternoon right up to sunset.
He has a word of caution to those interested in witnessing this rare heavenly occurrence: do NOT attempt to look at the sun however short a period that may be, even in a split second. He cannot stress that enough.
“Looking at the sun will, in fact, blind you, and this event should not be observed without commercially approved equipment such as those used by the Stockton Astronomical Society,” he said.
The Society will have safe observing sites set up at various places in Stockton; however, one of those sites will be in Lathrop. That Lathrop site is Baldwin’s driveway where he will have his Safe Solar Viewing equipment available to anyone interested.
Visually speaking, this “transit of Venus,” as Baldwin calls the passing of the planet in front of the sun, will not be as spectacular as a lunar eclipse.
And he explains why. “Venus is a hundred times smaller than the sun, but since it is only 1/3 as far away during the transit, it will look like it is about 1/30 the size of the sun. During a solar eclipse, the moon is approximately the size of the sun in appearance, so it’s dramatic. However, since Venus is so small in apparent size, it will be less than dramatic. But is very interesting to see a small black disk pass in front of the sun, it’s very rare.”
The only way to view it, though, is by way of a telescope that the Stockton Astronomical society uses which is equipped with “full-aperture safe solar filters that disable the energy from the sun before the light ever enters the telescope,” Baldwin explained.
“It filters out the visible, ultra-violet and infra-red radiation making it the safest possible method to directly observe the sun or solar events such as a (Venus) transit.”
To demonstrate how looking at the sun with the naked eye can harm one’s visual organ, Baldwin removed the safe filters from one of the telescopes he set up on his driveway Friday afternoon and placed a piece of wood where one would view the sun without the safety tool. The wood soon smoldered from the heat of the sun, which is what would happen to the naked eye and eventually cause blindness.
Baldwin’s telescope set-up will be in the 600 block of Pioneer Avenue in Lathrop. The street is on the north side of River Islands Parkway and east of McKee Boulevard.