Press Release

The Moon and four planets in the evening sky

By SpaceRef Editor
May 3, 2004
Filed under ,

During the coming evenings, everybody under clear skies will be able to enjoy a
beautiful view in the twilight. Right after sunset, planet Venus is visible as a
brilliant point of light above the western horizon — and two other planets,
Mars and Saturn, are seen to the left of Venus as somewhat less bright objects.
More to the south and higher in the sky, planet Jupiter is also prominent.

In the evenings of April 22 and 23, the thin crescent of the Moon will be
located near Venus and Mars, further adding to the splendor of this sight (the
drawing shows the configuration in the evening of Friday, April 23).

One month later, around May 21, there will be another chance to witness this
interesting celestial sight. And even more: on that particular Friday, for
observers in Europe, the Moon will pass in front of Venus. Known as an
"occultation", this event will happen around 12 hrs Universal Time (UT), i.e. in
full daylight during early afternoon in central Europe. More details are
available here.

These are fine preludes to the rare astronomical event on Tuesday, June 8th,
2004, when Venus will pass in front of the solar disc, as seen from the Earth.
This "Venus Transit" happened last time in the year 1882 and now provides a vast
public in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia the opportunity for a unique

The VT-2004 programme is gaining momentum

The "Venus Transit 2004 Programme (VT-2004)" is a joint public science discovery
activity of several European research institutes [1]. It aims at reaching the
widest possible circles and stimulating broad public participation, involving
many active partners. The front page of the VT-2004 website
( provides an overview of the many approaches inherent
in this large-scale programme.

The present communication is the first in a series to be issued between now and
the Venus Transit event seven weeks hence. They aim at informing about the
progress and outlook of the various activities. With a rapidly increasing number
of visitors to the VT-2004 website and more and more requests for information
from the public and the media, the VT-2004 programme is now obviously gaining
momentum at a rapid pace and these communications therefore also serve as status

Information and materials for the media

Media representatives will find a lot of useful material at the VT-2004 website,

* A series of 33 Information Sheets, with related background facts. They are
available in two versions ("brief" and "extended"). Ranging from information
about the visibility of the Venus transit and the physical characteristic of
that planet to associated mythology and science fiction, from distances in the
Universe to historical expeditions, virtually all related subjects are covered
— a true treasure trove of information!

* A list of partner organisations in- and outside Europe, collaborating within
the VT-2004 Network. Some of these have been designated VT-2004 Nodes; they have
set up their own websites and are promoting the many activities in their
respective areas. They provide relevant local information in the local languages.

* Special webareas for the Media, for Students and Teachers (Education) (a vast
number of schools are organising activities before and during the event),
Amateur Astronomers (many astronomy clubs are arranging public viewings) and
also for the Youngest.

* Broadcast-quality video material (animations, etc.) and related photos are
also available.

* On the day of the transit, many activities will take place, cf. the overview,
hereunder the transmission of live images from many observing sites via the
"Central Display".

Media representatives are welcome to contact the organisers via email at .


[1] The VT-2004 programme is organised by the European Southern Observatory
(ESO), the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE), the Institut de
M?©canique C?©leste et de Calcul des ?âph?©m?©rides (IMCCE) and the Observatoire de
Paris in France, and the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of
the Czech Republic. It is supported by the European Commission in the framework
of European Science Week 2004.

SpaceRef staff editor.