There are multiple organized events planned on Oahu to view the "transit of Venus," a once-in-a-lifetime celestial phenomenon with prime viewing from Hawaii that occurs today, but only a few formal and informal gatherings have been announced on Maui.
Haleakala National Park, Hookipa Beach Park, Kamaole Beach Park III and the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, which also will be holding marriage vow renewals "in honor of the Roman goddess of love," are the places that have submitted news releases to The Maui News and that James "J.D." Armstrong, Maui technology education and outreach specialist for the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy, has heard of as viewing sites as of Monday afternoon.
Armstrong acknowledged that there are more Venus transit events planned on Oahu, but he expects Haleakala National Park to be packed this afternoon as Venus passes directly between the Earth and the sun. The planet will appear as a small dot gliding across the face of the sun, an event that occurs twice every 243 years - with the next one in December 2117.
The Venus transit is expected to begin at noon and last until 6:45 p.m., and Hawaii is the only state from which viewers can observe the entire six-hour event.
With the help of Seabury Hall science students, Haleakala park staff will host visitors at the park's visitor center and summit building and have "sunspotter" devices, which project the sun's image onto a piece of paper, on hand for safe viewing of the event. The summit of the 10,023-foot Haleakala will likely offer a prime vantage point for the transit because the summit portion of the park is typically above the clouds.
Armstrong also caught wind of a couple of informal gatherings with amateur astronomers bringing their telescopes to Kamaole Beach Park III, Hookipa Beach Park and Kalahaku Overlook on Haleakala.
The Hyatt will hold free marriage vow renewals in the resort's Statue Gardens beginning at 4 p.m. Couples need to arrive at the resort at 3 p.m. Couples interested in participating may contact the resort for more information by phone at 661-1234, ext. 5683 (LOVE), or go to the website www.maui.hyatt.com.
The transit will be broadcast on a big screen by the pool, allowing prime access for guests and locals to experience the show all afternoon for free, and the resort's director of astronomy, Eddie Mahoney, who also leads the nightly "Tour of the Stars" program, will be available to answer questions.
Viewing will be enhanced by the resort's Celestron high-definition 14-inch aplanic telescope.
Armstrong says the institute has handed out 2,000 free viewing devices, and they have a few more.
"We want people to enjoy and appreciate astronomy," he said in explaining the free giveaway.
People should not look directly at the sun to observe the phenomenon, Armstrong said. Looking at the sun through welding glass shade No. 14 is necessary for safety, he said, adding that an observer should not look through even those glasses for a long period of time.
If a person is unsure about the grade of the shade of the welding glass, they should not use it. Arc welding glasses and sunglasses are not sufficient protection for the eyes, he said.
He said he would recommend the pinhole projectors with indirect viewing.
The transitofvenus.org website offers website options for pinhole projectors: www2.eng. cam.ac.uk/~hemh/transit.htm and www.exploratorium.edu/ eclipse/how.html.
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.