After Hours

Get ready to view the last Venus transit for another 115 years

Wally Bahny rounds up tips for viewing the transit of Venus across the sun on June 5-6. If you missed the 2004 show, this is your last chance for another 115 years!

In a rare event, Tuesday, June 5, 2012, Venus will make its second of two trips across the visible surface of the sun — trips that won't reoccur for another 115 years.

On June 8, 2004, Venus made the last transit across the sun and scores of people, like this crowd in Mishawaka, Indiana, gathered to witness the event. Just below in Figure A, is a composite image of the 2004 transit, recorded by NASA's TRACE sun-observing spacecraft. As you can see, Venus is passing in front of the edge of the sun. The bottom left is an ultraviolet image and the bottom right is extreme ultraviolet.

Figure A

Image credit: NASA/LMSAL

Now, eight years later, it will happen again and groups all across the US, as well as other countries are gathering once again. Depending on your location in the world, you may not be able to see it, but there will be plenty of publicly available live imagery available. The Slooh Space Camera and NASA Edge are providing live broadcasts of several worldwide feeds, especially those in the sweet spot — the South Pacific (where the entire transit will be visible) — during the event. Also, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is watching the event, so there will be plenty of high-resolution images available.

Can I watch from home?

If you're within any of the lightened areas on this map, yes. Most of North America will experience best viewing around sunset on June 5 (not visible in most of South America); for much of the rest of the world, you can begin watching at sunrise on June 6. There are several ways to observe the event. But first of all: Do not look directly at the sun — make sure you view safely and don't damage your eyes. One of the easiest ways to view is to purchase a pair of eclipse shades or some #14 shade welding glass. Another — free — option would be to create a simple pinhole projector. Steps to create one can be found here. Finally, you can use a pair of binoculars to magnify the image of the sun, thus providing an image that a group of people can view at once. Dr. Douglas Duncan, Director of the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado, provides some easy to follow steps in this YouTube video.

For more information, check out Transit of Venus.org, this NASA news article, and this NPR interview.

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