A special solar telescope will be the focal point of Stonehenge Aotearoa's celebrations to mark the transit of Venus.
The transit will happen on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 meaning the planet Venus will move from being an evening star in the west to a morning star in the east. As this happens it will pass across the face of the Sun and appear as a small black circle.
Richard Hall of Stonehenge Aotearoa, a modern interpretation of Stonehenge in England and a 10 minute drive from the Wairarapa township of Carterton, says the last transit occurred in 2004 and was not visible in New Zealand skies. After this year, another transit won't occur until December 2117.
As part of celebrations for the transit of Venus, Richard has imported a special Solar Telescope and two unique lenses so live images of the event can be projected onto a large screen for members of the public to watch, so they don't damage their eyes by looking directly at the sun.
"This transit of Venus is a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to view it, and there's no place better to observe it, than here in Wairarapa," says Richard. "We're an area renowned for the clarity of sky and freedom from light pollution."
Richard says the transit is especially important for New Zealanders as it was this event that brought Captain Cook to the Southern Pacific�which�in turn led to�the�discovery of�Aotearoa by the British.
Celebrations for the transit of Venus begin at Stonehenge Aotearoa at 10.00am on June 6. Richard says the transit will begin at 10:15am and last for more than six hours - with Venus moving off the Sun at 4:25pm and the transit ending at approximately 4:44pm.
Special presentations on the Cook voyages, the science behind the transit, and telescope viewing of the transit will be held throughout the day. In addition, visitors will (weather permitting) be able to observe sunspots and other solar activity.
"We will be sharing this event with people around the world," says Richard. "Live video of the transit will be seen from Stonehenge Aotearoa along with interviews with astronomers and visitors that will be broadcast on the internet."
Presentations will start on the hour from 10am to 3pm. Session numbers are limited so bookings are essential. If weather conditions are unfavourable making the transit not visible from the Wairarapa, a video screen from an observatory in Australia will be presented live on a large screen.
Carterton will continue its celebrations of the transit of Venus in the following weeks when it hosts the annual conference for the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, hosted by the Phoenix Astronomical Society. Over 100 astronomers from New Zealand and around the world are expected to attend.
Transit of Venus celebrations will fall in the same month as the Winter Solstice, also known as Alban Arthan (Saturday, June 23rd), a colourful Druid Festival marking the beginning of the year in the Ancient World and Matairiki, the traditional Maori New Year.
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