is offering a chance to see a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event this evening.
The college will offer viewings of the transit of Venus across the face of the sun at the Rockville campus in parking Lot 13 at the corner of Mannakee Street and Hungerford Drive beginning at 5:30 p.m.
The college's Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus will host viewings at the top of the parking garage at Fenton and King streets, beginning at 5 p.m. Viewing glasses will be available, according to the college's Web site.
Other locations across Maryland are hosting viewing parties of the rare astronomical occurrence that will begin at 6:03 p.m.
Often referred to as the "Evening Star" or "Morning Star," Venus is the brightest natural object in our sky after the sun and the moon. As the second planet from the sun, it's closer to the sun than is Earth.
A "transit" occurs when Venus passes between Earth and the sun in such a way that Venus's silhouette is backlit by the sun's brilliant light. It last happened in 2004, and won't happen again until 2117.
“It’s a very exciting event, and since our rain date is 2117, this is the last time [to see the transit of Venus] in a lifetime,” said Joel Goodman, a dentist from Glenelg who also is the observatory chair of the Howard Astronomical League.
Here is a selection of places in Maryland offering viewing parties:
- The Westminster Astronomical Society will have observing sites on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Howard County’s six library systems (Eldersburg, 6400 Hemlock Drive; Westminster, 50 E. Main St.; Finksburg, 2265 Old Westminster Pike; Taneytown, 10 Grand Drive; Mount Airy, 705 Ridge Ave.; and North Carroll, 2255 Hanover Pike, Greenmount) The club also is selling solar viewing glasses for $2 a pair or three pairs for a $5 donation, according to the society’s website.
- The Howard Astronomical League will host a Transit of Venus viewing party at 5:30 p.m. at the Howard County Conservancy, 10520 Old Frederick Road, Woodstock, with 20 to 25 telescopes on hand. Organizers said they expect anywhere from 50 to 500 people.
- The Maryland Science Center, 601 Light St. in Baltimore, will have its observatory open from 5 to 8:30 p.m. for a viewing event.
A word of caution: Remember, don't look directly at the sun.
Experts suggest that one widely available filter for safe solar viewing is Number 14 welder's glass. If you're using a telescope, be sure it has a solar filter.
Pinhole projectors, though a good way to observe the sun safely, suffer from shortcomings when Venus approaches the edges of the sun. Small features like the halo around Venus will not likely be discernible.
Sunglasses, binoculars with filters, neutral density filters, or exposed photographic or radiographic film will not protect your eyes, warns the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Can't make it to a good viewing site? NASA is streaming video of the transit and holding live Web chats throughout the evening. Click here.
Editor Brandie Jefferson contributed to this story.