Venus crosses in front of the sun in this simulated image from Transitofvenus.org.

Photo gallery from the Transit of Venus event

Click here to be taken to a photo gallery page from the Transit of Venus event, which drew more than 800 guests to the Headlands!

Countdown to the Transit of Venus begins!

Once-in-a-lifetime celestial event will be visible from the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City on June 5, 2012

On Tuesday, June 5, 2012, a once-in-a-lifetime celestial occurrence, the Transit of Venus across the face of the sun, will be visible to many people around the globe, and one of the best viewing spots will be at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City.

In Northern Michigan, the Transit of Venus will be visible beginning after 5 p.m. To mark the occasion, Emmet County and its Dark Sky Park staff have planned an afternoon and evening of programs and entertainment centered around the transit.

The free events take place from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. and will include a program by Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams; presentation by Northern Michigan Astronomy Club founder Bryan Shumaker; safe viewing glasses and telescopes; entertainment by local musicians and magician Jania Taylor; painting by local artist Jerry Douglas; vendors who have created special food dishes (for purchase); and additional educational opportunities.

In addition, the Headlands is partnering with Mackinaw’s Heritage Village, where parking will be available. The historic village is located just across the street from the Headlands, and a trolley shuttle service will be available every 15 minutes to bring visitors to the Beach House, where much of the programming and viewing will take place. Guests may also walk the approximate 1.5 mile path to the Beach House from the parking area.

Prior to the event, visitors are encouraged to tour the historic buildings of Heritage Village, some of which will be open. The Village is a project of the Mackinaw Area Historical Society and the Village of Mackinaw. Both the Headlands and Heritage Village are located about 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.

The star of the day will be the planet Venus as it crosses the face of the sun, appearing as a black spot. This celestial phenomenon occurs in pairs separated by eight years; this specific transit won’t occur again for more than 105 years (December of 2117). It will be visible until sunset (9:24 p.m. local time).

"Given the historic nature of the Venus transit, it is important to mention that it's not just about viewing something unique in the sky, it's about honoring that part of life that moves in harmony with the cosmic rhythm,” said Adams. “At our event, we will provide telescopes, historic information, artistry, music, magic, and sacred space -- all elements that are essential to a rich life. Traditionally these are the things that belong to the realm of Venus, so it's an important part of community life to take a break and observe such things."

It is important to note that looking directly at the sun can cause instant damage to your vision, so protective eyewear designed specifically for gazing at the sun is necessary. During the event on June 5, protective eyewear will be provided, including glasses, individual pieces of welder's glass and telescopes with Sun filters.

All events and parking are free. Food will be available for purchase from vendors. Please note that this event takes place rain or shine; monitors and Internet connections will be set up inside the Beach House to witness the event at other locales in the event of inclement weather in Northern Michigan.

"Astronomers, both professional and amateur, stargazers, poets, teachers, astrologers, dreamers; it's hard to find an event that draws as many different kinds of people together," said Adams.

"Researchers of former centuries used these kinds of phenomena to confirm great mysteries such as the distance of the Sun from the Earth and the size of our solar system, while today they will use the light of Sun and Venus reflected off the back of the Moon to further their research about exo-planets. The rarity of such an event, and the role it has played in the cultural beliefs of ancient peoples, makes it something to go out of the way for."

Note: For technical information about the Transit of Venus, visit the NASA Web site, which describes it in detail: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/OH/transit12.html; or www.transitofvenus.org.

The Headlands is a 600-acre park on the Straits of Mackinac, two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City, at 7725 E. Wilderness Park Dr. The park is free and open to the public every day. While no camping is allowed, visitors are welcome to stay overnight to observe the dark sky overhead. The Headlands became the 6th International Dark Sky Park in the U.S. and the 9th in the world in May 2011, and each month free programs are held for the public. More information: email bpiehl@emmetcounty.org, or call (231) 348-1704.

The county sends regular email blasts as well with information about night-sky observation opportunities and celestial events; to register, email darksky@emmetcounty.org

 

For more 2012 Dark Sky Park programs, click here!

 

June 5, 2012, program flyer

Find out who will be presenting and all the activities going on from 4 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5, by downloading the program flyer; click on the PDF below!

Transit of Venus Program Flyer

Why does the Transit of Venus occur, and what does it mean?

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NASA image of Venus.

The Transit of Venus across the face of the Sun is a phenomenon that occurs in pairs separated by eight years; this specific transit won’t occur again for more than 105 years. The current Venus transit cycle started with the movement of Venus across the Sun June 8, 2004, and will complete the cycle June 5, 2012, starting in the 5 p.m. hour and lasting until sunset (9:24 p.m. local time). This movement of Venus will not happen again until December 2117.

Here’s what's happening: The planet Venus comes to that place on its orbital plane that puts it directly between Sun and Earth. At other times throughout its orbit, Venus will come to the same degree of the zodiac with the Sun, but because of the tilt in its orbital plane, at such times it will appear either above or below the Sun.

“The celestial harmony of it is that with a recognizable and predictable rhythm, Venus moves directly in front of the Sun. This is akin to an eclipse of the Sun by our Moon, but because Venus is so far away and so small, it doesn't block the Sun entirely,” explained Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Program Director at the Headlands, two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.

Throughout the centuries the movements of Venus were used in significant ways and by a variety of cultures, from ceremony regarding the Goddess of Love and Beauty to the sophisticated three-fold calendar system used by the Mayans, who measured the Venus transits. The ancient Greeks regarded Venus during its transit period as their god Prometheus, who stole a spark from the chariot of Helios as he carried the Sun across the sky. For eight years, this spark was given to humanity for fanning into a flame. During this time Prometheus was chained to a rock as punishment, until he could restore the flame to the Sun, thereby increasing the wisdom and knowledge of the people of the Earth.

"Astronomers, both professional and amateur, stargazers, poets, teachers, astrologers, dreamers; it's hard to find an event that draws as many different kinds of people together," said Adams.
"Researchers of former centuries used these kinds of phenomena to confirm great mysteries such as the distance of the Sun from the Earth and the size of our solar system, and while the physical science of these phenomena is not as significant now, the rarity of such an event, and the role it has played in the cultural beliefs of ancient peoples, makes it something to go out of the way for."

“In our time, we are at a solar maximum, meaning there is increased activity with the Sun spots, making for increased experience of the aurora borealis,” Adams noted.

She said the Venus Transit is preceded by two other, more common celestial phenomena: An annular solar eclipse on May 20 and a partial lunar eclipse June 4. Together, the three events are referred to as a “syzygy,” an ancient Greek word meaning “yoked together.” It is used in reference to an alignment of three celestial objects.

“The precise alignments of Earth and Sun with the Moon twice and the planet Venus have a certain harmonious inspiration about them," said Adams.

Note: For technical information about the Transit of Venus, visit the NASA Web site, which describes it in detail: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/OH/transit12.html


How can you witness such an event? The first thing is to know that looking directly at the Sun can cause instant damage to your vision, so protective eyewear designed specifically for gazing at the Sun is necessary. During the event on June 5 at the Headlands, protective eyewear will be provided, including glasses, individual pieces of welder's glass and telescopes with Sun filters.

NASA information flyer/graphic

Click on the link below to download a PDF of a flyer about the Transit of Venus created by NASA. It describes the event in more detail and is printable.

Venus Transit Flyer from NASA

 

 

Couple will celebrate 60 years of marriage during Transit of Venus

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Bill and Doris Stewart

For Bill and Doris Stewart, June 5 is a once-in-a-lifetime date – for more than one reason.

The Detroit-area couple will celebrate their 60th anniversary on June 5, 2012, and they’ll do so while observing a rare celestial phenomenon at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City: The Transit of Venus.

“Many times we’ve tried to see events in the sky, but because we’re just outside of Metro Detroit, we always strike out,” said Bill. “We’ve tried to head out to see the Perseids and other meteor showers, but unfortunately we never see them because of light pollution.”

“We’ve been able to see the Big Dipper at times, and the Space Station and Sputnik when they flew over,” added Doris.

This year, the Fraser, Mich., couple plans to mark their Diamond Anniversary amidst the deep, dark night of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Emmet County and its Dark Sky Park staff have an afternoon and evening full of activities planned, centered around the Transit of Venus, an astronomical phenomenon that won’t take place again for another 105.5 years.

The Transit will be visible beginning after 5 p.m. and lasting through sunset, around 9:24 p.m.  The Stewarts plan to head north the morning of June 5, attend the event and stay overnight in Mackinaw City. The next day, they’ll head back home for a lunch gathering with friends that they’ve attended for numerous years.

“These are friends we have known through church, school and the neighborhood and we share many happy memories,” Bill remarked.

The couple has a lifetime of memories, indeed. They wed in Detroit on June 5, 1952, at a Baptist church that’s now long been a Wendy’s. “We had to get married, because it was too much trouble going from the east side to the west side of Detroit to date,” Bill joked.

Bill, 84, is retired from the post office and insurance work and Doris, 82, is also retired from insurance work and as a bookkeeper. They have four children and six grandchildren who live around Michigan and the U.S.  Bill recalled vacations to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as a child, where the stars were plentiful in the dark night.

“When I saw the (May/June 2012) article about the Headlands in AAA Living magazine, it piqued my curiosity,” Bill said. “The article emphasized the fact that there is no light pollution up there, and that the Northern Lights can be seen when they happen.  We thought it’d be a great place to go.”

On June 5, 1952, the Stewarts were just beginning a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that has now spanned six decades. And on June 5, 2012, they’ll be setting off to explore another. As Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams notes, the celebration of the Stewarts’ union is not mere coincidence; after all, Venus is known as the planet of beauty -- and love.

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Bill and Doris Stewart on their wedding day, June 5, 1952