Before they drew their famous boundary line between the north and south, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were charged with observing the 1761 Transit of Venus to get measurements to help determine the distance from the earth to the sun… but they were way-laid by a French man-of-war and never made it to their intended observational site. Which was too bad, since the Transit of Venus is an exceedingly rare astronomical event — it won’t happen again until 2125. So get your telescopes and special glasses ready, Baltimore, because today marks the last chance in your lifetime that you’ll be able to see Venus move across the sun, and we happen to be in prime viewing area.
If you don’t happen to have your own astronomical observation tools, we’ve found a few spots where you can watch the transit in the company of experts and amateur enthusiasts:
Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Campus: This one has the most proper nouns. Join the Astrobiology Forum and Maryland Space Grant Observatory at the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy for an evening of Venus-themed events. Our favorite local heartthrob/Nobel prize winner Adam Riess will join other Hopkinites to talk about the importance of transits like this one. There will also be many options for viewing: personal telescopes, paper projections, and a live feed from Hawaii.
Maryland Science Center: watch from the observatory’s filtered Clark TElescope, which will be open late (6-8 p.m.); there will also be crafts. Free.
Baltimore’s “Street Corner Astronomer”: visit him at the east end of Lake Montebello; he’ll be the one with the “special Sun telescope.”
Howard County Conservancy: join the Howard Astronomical League and their 25 telescopes for a safe viewing. (If you’re looking for a party atmosphere, this might not be it. “It’s not going to be fireworks. We’re going to see a little black dot moving across the face of the sun,” HAL vice president Wayne Baggett told the Baltimore Sun. “It’s not like it’s an exciting thing like a football game, but it’s exciting because they’re rare.”)
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