The Transit of Venus at Varsity Stadium

May 9, 2012 – On June 5th, 2012, the world will be watching as the planet Venus passes in front of the Sun. This phenomenon, called a transit of Venus, has not happened since 2004 and will not happen again until 2117. For virtually every human alive today, June 5th will be the last chance to see this fascinating celestial event. And in Toronto, the place to watch the transit will be the University of Toronto’s Varsity Centre.

BX442_Art_crop_300pxA special transit-viewing event at Varsity Centre will provide visitors with every possible way of viewing and learning about this spectacle. The transit begins at 6:04pm and continues to sunset, and the stadium grandstand will afford a perfect view. Visitors can watch using free transit-viewing glasses and through a variety of solar telescopes that will be set up on site—including a 200-year-old instrument from the U of T’s Scientific Instruments Collection. Live video feeds will show the transit from locations around the world.

Also, U of T astronomers will be on hand to answer questions like, “Why did explorers travel to far-flung destinations to view transits in the 1700s?” “How are transits helping us find planets around other stars?” And, “How can observing the moon during the transit, with the Hubble Space Telescope, help us in our search for life beyond Earth?”

Plus, visitors can attend special-ticketed planetarium shows in Varsity Arena, a free astronomy public lecture, as well as special live performances of Canadian playwright Maureen Hunter’s “The Transit of Venus.”

1695_halpha_84pxThe event is organized by the university’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, in collaboration with the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, the Department of Alumni Relations, and the Institute for the History & Philosophy of Science & Technology.

Varsity Centre gates open at 5:30pm. Varsity Centre is located on the south side of Bloor Street, one block east of St. George Street and a half-block west of the ROM. Visitors will enter through the Bloor Street entrance of the stadium. The venue is steps away from the St. George and Museum subway stations.

Beyond their public appeal, transits are also important scientifically because they relate to one of the most exciting fields of investigation in astronomy today: the search for planets around other stars. Astronomers find these so-called exoplanets by detecting transits of distant stars. When an exoplanet crosses the face of a star, astronomers detect the slight, periodic dip in the brightness of the star, revealing the presence of the distant planet. The University of Toronto is home to many planet hunters who use transits and other means to find distant worlds.

The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics continues the legacy of the David Dunlap Observatory of developing innovative astronomical instrumentation, including instrumentation for the largest telescopes in the world. The research of its faculty and Dunlap Fellows spans the depths of the Universe, from the discovery of exoplanets, to the formation of stars, the evolution and nature of galaxies, dark matter, the Cosmic Microwave Background, and SETI. The institute also continues a strong commitment to developing the next generation of astronomers and fostering public engagement in science.