ANN ARBOR — Beyond the romance of its rarity, Tuesday’s transit of Venus could help scientists learn more about the composition of the solar wind — the stream of charged particles emanating from the sun.

In a UM video, Susan Lepri, an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, explains one of the special scientific opportunities the event will make possible.

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Watch the video at

Also, Wayne State University has scheduled a public viewing of the transit Tuesday evening.

Lepri’s research group will take advantage of the transit to learn more about how the sun interacts with planetary atmospheres. As the solar wind rips by the planets, it strips away parts of their atmospheres.

“This is a great opportunity for us to be able to look at the solar wind when Venus is in our path and say, all right, these parts come from Venus, so we know they’re not from the sun,” Lepri said.

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Previous transits have also yielded new knowledge. The 1769 event led to remarkably accurate estimates of the distance between the earth and the sun.

At Wayne State, the Department of Physics and Astronomy is holding a public viewing event for the last transit of Venus of our lifetime.

The event will run from 6 to 9 p.m. in the rooftop observatory on the Physics Research Building, Wayne State University, 666 W. Hancock, Detroit.

This free event also includes:

  • Direct and indirect viewing of the transit of Venus through roof top telescopes (weather permitting) and through a projected NASA feed.
  • Phantastic Physics demos including the Fire Tornado.
  • Planetarium shows held at 6:45 and 7:45 p.m. in the WSU Planetarium, Room 0209, Old Main Building, 4841 Cass Avenue (a short walk from the Physics Research Building), including as part of each planetarium show, a full-dome, Transit of Venus video.
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