Arts and Entertainment

Astronomical association gets set for solar show

The sun is gearing up for a concert of astronomical proportions and Bainbridge Island has front-row seats.

A solar eclipse and a once-in-a-lifetime event will occur over the next month, and the Battle Point Astronomical Association will have its telescopes ready.

The Transit of Venus is a rare and unique view of the planet as it travels in front of the sun from the Earth’s point of view.

It’s quite a solar spectacle, said Steve Ruhl, president of the Battle Point Astronomical Association.

“There is some interesting phenomena, interaction of the light passing through Venus,” Ruhl said.

Though if islanders really want to see it, they better do so this year. The event only happens once in a lifetime.

“It is your last chance to see it,” Ruhl said. “It occurs in pairs of two, and the next time it occurs will be in 115 years.”

“If it’s on your bucket list, this is your chance,” he added.

Earth’s sister planet will make its trek across the sun on June 5, but islanders can get an overview of the rare event at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 12.

The next time Venus will take such a trek in front of the sun will be in 2117.

Paul Middents, a retired adjunct astronomy professor at Olympic College, will speak on the topic at the observatory in Battle Point Park. Middents will give exciting insights into the event and its history.

“It is a rare event, and has a fun history associated with it,” Ruhl said.

Astronomers initially attempted to observe the Transit of Venus in the 1760s. With the knowledge and technology of the time, the stakes were high to get accurate measurements. But through an organized and grand effort, the stargazers were able to collect data to help indicate the size of the solar system.

Admission to Middents’ presentation is free for association members. There is a $2 suggested donation for individuals or $5 for families, to support the nonprofit.

The sun will be busy over the next couple months.

As an opening act to the Transit of Venus, a solar eclipse will occur on May 20. To see the full solar eclipse, a person would have to be standing in southern Oregon during the event.

Approximately 83 percent of the sun will be shaded from the island’s perspective.

“Basically around here it’s going to take a giant bite out of it,” Ruhl said.

The observatory will be offering shaded glasses to properly, and safely, view the eclipse for a suggested donation of $5 to support the observatory. The proceeds will help fund the purchase of a sun dial to be installed at the observatory.

The observatory will have telescopes aimed at the sky, specifically the sun, for both events on May 20 and June 5.

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