High school graduation is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for students. And when York Suburban High School grads celebrate that milestone, there will be another rare event happening.
York Suburban’s graduation is set for June 5, which happens to be the same date the Transit of Venus is expected to occur, said Steve Whiteley, a science teacher at York Suburban High School. He teaches an elective on astronomy.
The Transit of Venus is when Venus passes directly between the earth and the sun. When the moon does that, it’s a solar eclipse. But Venus is much smaller, Whiteley said.
You’ll be able to see it (though it’ll be tiny) around sunset June 5, around the time of York Suburban’s graduation ceremony.
Of course, you can’t just stare at the sun – it’s not safe for the eyes. You need some sort of eye protection, like solar eclipse glasses.
Whiteley is ordering 1,000 pairs of solar eclipse glasses (the minimum order) emblazoned with York Suburban’s Trojan mascot and the graduation date.
He hopes to give a couple pairs to each graduate and others at the ceremony, though he’s still negotiating — grads are not allowed to wear sunglasses at the ceremony.
Students discovered that the Transit of Venus would be occurring on graduation night in the fall, when they were using an online program called Stellarium, which Whiteley described as a sort of planetarium on a laptop.
Whiteley suggested students use the program to see what the sky looked like the night they were born or see what would be happening on graduation night. A student checked out graduation night and said it looked like there was something on the sun.
Transits of Venus are rare, “coming in pairs that are eight years apart but separated by over a century,” according to a website dedicated to the subject. The last one was in 2004, and after the June 5, it won’t happen again until 2117, the site says.
“Transits of Venus were one of the things that helped us understand the shape of the other planets … orbital periods, how long it took planets to move around sun,” Whiteley said.
Only two planets can transit the sun — Mercury and Venus, Whiteley said. But Mercury is too tiny to see.
He hopes students will at least be able to get a quick peek at the rare event on graduation night. Of course, it could rain, and the ceremony could be moved indoors. But it will still be nice for the graduates to have the glasses as a memento of that night, Whiteley said.