ALBUQUERQUE, NM- Annular Solar Eclipse: A rare annular solar eclipse is happening on May 20th, and Albuquerque has been identified as one of the best locations in its path for viewing the cosmic phenomenon. The Balloon Museum is offering the public an opportunity to view the eclipse-which at its center point creates the "ring of fire" around the sun as the moon's shadow fills the entire surface of the sun's center-from the beautiful museum and grounds that offer majestic mountain views, soaring spaces and fascinating exhibits that celebrate the history, art, culture, science and sport of lighter-than-air flight.

On Sunday, May 20th, from 4 - 10:30 p.m. crowds that include professional and amateur astronomers as well as the general public will gather for the opportunity to view the sun's disappearance through the generous participation of The Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS). The all-volunteer group will provide telescopes fitted with solar filters that will be projected on LCD screens inside the Museum.

Everyone should be aware that it is incredibly dangerous to view the sun directly, as major permanent damage to the retina will occur. Because the eye does not have nerves, pain will not be felt until the damage is complete. Volunteers will roam the museum and grounds reminding all attendees that they must use special solar glasses or create a pinhole camera to view the eclipse directly. Solar glasses will be distributed to visitors free of charge (with regular admission) while supplies last. Materials to make pinhole cameras and project the eclipse will also be available.

The Solar Eclipse event will include live music, food and beverages available for purchase, children's activities that include interactive learning, crafts, jumpers, face painting and a climbing wall. The movie "Contact" will also be screened at 8:30 p.m. It was filmed at the Very Large Array near Socorro and features Jodi Foster as a scientist trying to make contact with possible life elsewhere in the Universe.

All activities are included with regular museum admission. Parking is free, and attendees are encouraged to bring folding chairs and/or blankets as seating is limited.

Transit of Venus: If one major cosmic event isn't enough for you, on Tuesday, June 5th there is another. Twice in every century the planet Venus crosses the face of the sun, creating a small black dot that slowly moves from side to side over a period of approximately 4.5 hours. Because the transit cannot be seen without significant magnification, TAAS is working with the Museum to provide telescopic images that will be projected on a large LCD screen so that visitors can check in regularly to see the planet's progress. In addition to the view of the transit from Albuquerque, another large screen will feature live video from Hawaii courtesy of NASA.

The Transit of Venus will take place between 4 and approximately 8:30 p.m. There will also be entertainment including the Albuquerque Concert Band from 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. performing a John Philip Sousa composition, "Transit of Venus March," written in 1883 to celebrate the 1882 transit of Venus. The all-volunteer organization features over 80 players representing a wide range of age, ability and background. This year from June 5th through August 8th the band will also perform concerts on alternate Wednesday evenings at the Balloon Museum, courtesy of the City of Albuquerque's Cultural Services Department.

Between 5:30 and 6 p.m., Peter Cuneo will speak about "Telescopes and Balloons" as part the Balloon Museum's programming during the Transit of Venus. Cuneo, a retired optical engineer with Lockheed Martin, is a celebrated gas and hot air balloon pilot and is an authority on the history of ballooning.

The centerpiece of the Balloon Museum's "Space and Science" displays is the Office of Naval Research Strato-Lab gondola. On its fourth ascension the Strato-Lab carried a 16" telescope, part of a spectroscope system, mounted on top of the gondola. The objective of the flight was to examine the atmosphere of Venus for the presence of water vapor.

At 6 p.m. the New Mexico Philharmonic will take the stage to perform The Planets, Op. 32, a seven-movement orchestral suite by the English composer Gustav Holst, written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after a planet of the Solar System and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst. With the exception of Earth, which is not observed in astrological practice, all the planets are represented. Conducted by Oriol Sans, the orchestral performance will open with John Williams' Star Wars Suite and E.T. The Extra-terrestrial Suite to offer a dramatic element to the celestial event.

The Cooperage will offer a delicious menu to enhance the evening: gourmet burgers, sandwiches, salads and Brick Oven Pizza, plus desserts. A cash bar will be available for the over-21 crowd.
The Museum will remain open for another half-hour following the concert's end at 8 p.m. to allow visitors to view the fascinating exhibits prior to leaving.

Admission to the Transit viewing and concert is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and children 12 and under are free.