mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

Talking Transit: The Sun-Venus-Earth Connection

Maintained by LG & RG

A Frontiers of Astronomy Community Event

Who: UH faculty members

What: A panel discussion about the history and science of transits of Venus

When: Wednesday, May 30, 7:30 p.m.

Where: UH Mānoa Art Auditorium (map)

Why: To get ready for the transit of Venus happening on June 5.

How Much: The panel discussion is free, and solar viewers, which are needed to safely view the transit, will be distributed for free. Campus parking costs $6.

The Panel:

Dr. Paul Coleman: Astronomy as practiced by Native Hawaiians and transits of Venus in Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i and Kanaka Maoli have an integral relationship with astronomy in general and with Venus transits in particular. A few interesting historical and cultural facts will be presented to illustrate this idea.

In the early seventies, Paul Henry Ikaika Coleman left Hawai‘i to attend the University of Notre Dame, where he obtained a BS in physics. He then began an almost 30-year journey throughout the world before returning to Hawai‘i to live in 2002. He obtained a PhD in physics in 1985 from the University of Pittsburgh and subsequently held positions in Virginia, the Netherlands, New Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Paul is currently an astrophysicist/specialist at the Institute for Astronomy, where he engages in outreach, does research, and teaches astronomy. He is a member of the University’s Kuali‘i Council, a body of Native Hawaiian professors, instructors, and graduate students on the Mānoa campus, and a member of several advisory councils aimed at increasing the number of children in science and technology fields.

Dr. Shadia Habbal: How the Sun and the solar wind affect Venus and Earth

Historically, total solar eclipses provided the first, and for a long time, the only opportunity to explore the outer atmosphere of the Sun, the solar corona. Imaging and spectroscopy soon made it clear that the corona, through the dramatic evolution of its magnetic field and the expansion of the solar wind, plays a crucial role in shaping the atmospheres and environments of the planets and minor bodies. Now, with numerous spacecraft studying the Sun, we have gained considerable knowledge of the impact of the continuous, and often bursty, solar wind (the outflow of ionized gas from the Sun). The onslaught of the solar wind onto Venus and the Earth provides dramatic examples of how two very different planets succumb to the whims of their parent star, the Sun.

Shadia Rifai Habbal, a solar physicist at the Institute for Astronomy at UH Mānoa, specializes in understanding the origin and evolution of the solar wind, and the Sun’s magnetic field. She has led solar eclipse expeditions all over the world, including India, Mongolia, Syria, Zambia, South Africa, Libya, China, and the South Pacific (Enewetak and Tatakoto). Shadia was born in Damascus, Syria. She received her BS in physics and math from the University of Damascus, her master of philosophy in physics from the American University of Beirut, and her MS and PhD in physics from the University of Cincinnati.

Dr. Peter Mouginis-Mark: The secrets of Venus

Venus, the second planet from the Sun, is the most Earth-like planet we know. Its size and density lead us to believe that it may once have looked much like Earth, but because it is closer to the Sun, any ocean it may have once had has been boiled away to create a very thick atmosphere. For a long time, we knew little about the surface of our neighbor because we could not see through this thick atmosphere. With the advent of radar imaging from orbiting spacecraft, and landers that have reached the surface of Venus, this has now changed. Dr. Mouginis-Mark will tell us about what those clouds of Venus are hiding.

Peter Mouginis-Mark is the director of the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology of the School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology at Mānoa. He also serves as Director of the UH Mānoa Sustainability Initiative. Pete received his bachelor's degree in 1973 and PhD in 1977 in environmental sciences from Lancaster University in England. He joined the Mānoa faculty in 1982. He has a long-standing interest in volcanoes and impact craters, both on Earth and on other solar system bodies, including Mars and Venus.  Last year, he was a team member of a science team that proposed to send a new radar satellite to Venus to search for active volcanism. Currently, he is conducting a geologic mapping of Olympus Mons volcano and an impact crater called Tooting, both on Mars.

Dr. Roy Gal: Viewing the transit on June 5 with the Institute for Astronomy

On the afternoon and evening of June 5, people in Hawai‘i will have the rare opportunity to view the planet Venus cross the disk of the Sun. IfA will set up telescopes equipped with special solar filters for public viewing on Waikīkī Beach, at the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, and at Ko Olina near Lagoon 4 from noon until dusk. We will also distribute free “solar viewers” that will allow individuals to look at the sun safely. (more information)

Roy Gal is an astronomer, faculty chair of the Friends of the IfA, which includes a donor program and outreach activities, and chair of the IfA’s Outreach Committee. His research focuses on the evolution of galaxies and on clusters of galaxies.