Michiana gears up for the Transit of Venus across the sun

We all know from science class that the Earth and the planets in our solar system move around the sun, but most of us don’t think about it as we go about our lives. But on Tuesday, we will get a chance to see the solar system in motion as we watch the Transit of Venus.

It’s something we won’t be able to see again in our lifetime. The Transit of Venus will occur on Tuesday as the planet Venus moves in front of the sun, and it won’t happen again for another 105 years.

Besides being a cool thing to see, the transit has some important history.

“The Transit of Venus is significant historically because astronomers used the transit of Venus to measure the size of our solar system,” said Astronomy Educator Chuck Bueter. “It’s important in the future because they use what’s called the transit method to find new planets around distant stars.”

Michiana is a great place to watch the Transit. Some local businesses have even gotten involved.

You can try a special brew of coffee at Victorian Pantry in Granger. Chef Steve Stogdill will have the coffee available at his new location in Granger. He said he named the coffee Black Drop Effect, after one of the phases of the Transit. “You combine astronomy with a coffee and I’m there,” he said

Or if you like a good beer, try some Venusian Ale at The Livery in Benton Harbor.

According to President and Brewmaster Steve Berthel, it has a very unusual flavor, a blend of Belgian and American yeast strains, and is made with Michigan hops and honey.

“We wanted to do something totally unique and different for this event that’s happening June 5th.

At The Livery you will also be able to see a display of artwork related to the Transit of Venus, done by local artists. Other works are also on display at Harris Branch Library in Granger, and Penn High School.

There will be five public viewing sites across Michiana with telescopes available: Bittersweet Elementary in Mishawaka, The Jordan Hall of Science at Notre Dame, Lasalle Academy in South Bend, the New Carlisle Library, and at Warren Dunes. In case of cloudy weather, Bittersweet Elementary and Notre Dame will be showing the live webcast in their Digital Video Theaters.

The most important thing about watching the Transit of Venus is doing it safely. You never want to look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses on. But at all the viewing sites they will have these special solar shades available. It’s like looking through 70 pairs of sunglasses.

So what will the transit look like?

“When Venus passes in front of the sun, Venus is going to appear as just a small dot,” said Bueter. "And, at first, people are taken aback by it, that it’s just a dot. But, when you look at it and realize, the planet Venus is the size of the Earth, and we’re seeing it as this little dot on the sun. The sun can hold a million Earths and during a Transit of Venus, you really get that perspective.”

The Transit will begin at 6:04 pm Eastern time, with the sun setting about halfway through.

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