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Distributed June 4, 2004
Contact Tracie Sweeney

Brown University resources for June 8 event
Transit of Venus can be viewed at Ladd Observatory, Barus and Holley

The transit of Venus across the face of the sun can be safely viewed at Brown University’s Ladd Observatory (weather permitting) and in the lobby of the Barus and Holley Building. Brown astronomers are available to provide information about safe viewing, as well as the significance of this rare astronomical event.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — People who would like to safely view the transit of Venus across the face of the sun on Tuesday, June 8, are invited to Brown University’s Ladd Observatory, corner of Hope Street and Doyle Avenue in Providence, to witness the rare astronomical event.


Transit of Venus
Benjamin West, later a faculty member at Brown, made this diagram of the Transit of Venus in 1769. West and Moses Brown organized observations on the East Side that year, part of a worldwide effort determine the scale of the solar system.

Ladd Observatory will be open from 5:12 a.m. through 7:25 a.m., weather permitting. In addition, a live transmission from a Brown telescope will be made available to the public in the lobby of the Barus and Holley Building at the corner of George and Hope streets. If the morning is very cloudy, only Barus and Holley will be open. There, the public will be able to view a Webcast of the event taking place elsewhere.

The movement of Venus across the face of the sun occurs only four times every two centuries, with the last transit occurring in 1882, said David Targan, director of the Ladd Observatory and associate dean of the College and dean for science programs. Only five transits of Venus have been observed in recorded history, he said, and no one alive today has witnessed one.

Editors: Beginning Monday, June 7, Targan and Brown astronomers are available to journalists working on stories about safe viewing and about the historic significance of the event. Contact information for Targan is available at the end of this release.

Targan said that as seen through a telescope, Venus will appear as a small black dot moving very slowly across the bright disc of the sun. Because improper observation of the sun can cause blindness, astronomers at Brown are available to provide information about safely viewing the event, Targan said.

In the Rhode Island area, Venus will already be in transit at sunrise on the morning of June 8th, but will be observable (weather permitting) for about two hours before it leaves the face of the Sun.

The next transit of Venus across the sun occurs in 2012 but will not be visible from North America, Targan said. “The one after that doesn’t occur until the year 2117. Let’s hope for clear skies.”

Brown has a significant connection to this historical moment in history. In the colonies, two Rhode Island observers, Moses Brown and Benjamin West (a scientist who was soon to become a professor at Brown) engaged the citizens of Providence in observing the 1769 transit and hence helping in the worldwide effort determine the scale of the solar system. They observed the transit from the East Side of Providence with a telescope that is now on display at the University’s John Hay Library. Transit and Planet streets were named in honor of the 1769 event.

A website at offers information about the event as well as links to West’s reports of the historic event.


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