06/04/2012 05:43 pm ET Updated Jun 05, 2012

Transit Of Venus Detroit On Display At Wayne State University

A rare celestial event known as the transit of Venus will take place Tuesday -- and rain or shine, the Wayne State University Department of Physics and Astronomy will be ready for an evening of sky-gazing.

The Department is sponsoring a free evening of activities from 6 to 9 p.m. in honor of the special occurrence, which happens when Venus passes directly between the Earth and Sun. The planet will be visible as a small dot moving across the Sun's surface.

Jeff Conn, senior lecturer and associate director of the planetarium says the event happens about every 100-120 years in paired cycles that take place eight years apart from each other.

"You might think it might happen more often," he told the Huffington Post, "the reason it doesn't is … Venus is not quite in the same plane [as the earth] -- and every time Venus is lined up, it is usually a little above or a little below the sun."

The last transit of Venus took place in 2004. Before that it hadn't taken place since 1874 and 1882.


Conn said the transit is historically significant because it helped astronomers calculate the distance between the Earth and Sun. He added that Wayne State's event will feature specially outfitted observation equipment and warned that viewing the event through binoculars, welding glasses or a telescope without scientific supervision could lead to eye damage.

In the case of cloudy weather, participants will still be able to watch NASA live feed of the transit. The event will also include a film about the transit, planetarium shows at 6:45 and 7:45 and a "Phantastic Physics" presentation that will include a fire tornado and a liquid nitrogen demonstration.

Wayne State's Transit of Venus Viewing Event takes place June 5 from 6 to 9 p.m. The event is free. Viewing will take place at the Roof top Observatory of WSU's Physics Research Building at 666 W. Hancock in Detroit. The Observatory is not wheel chair accessible. Physics Demos and NASA feed will happen at the Physics Research Building in Room 245 in the same building. Planetarium shows will take place at Room 0209 of the Old Main Building at 4841 Cass Avenue in Detroit. Visit the website of WSU's Department of Physics and Astronomy for details.

Transit of Venus