Nasa / Space

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.

13 comments
pgit
pgit

I drove a couple hundred miles to get to clear weather to see the transit. I ended up on Presque Isle state park, Erie Pennsylvania. The weather was perfect. I got video of the sun setting over lake Erie with the transit in progress. Venus looms larger for a brief moment before disappearing below the horizon. I plan on getting it on youtube when I get the time. I had literally waited all my life for this event. (I saw the 2004 transit also) I remember learning of this when I was 6 or 7 and thinking I might not live to see it. (I nearly didn't, twice) I got a few video clips earlier in the transit, and a number of the stills I took came out OK. Funny thing, on the drive home I though about stuff like "what if there were a solar eclipse at the same time?" and similar. I see someone posted the wikipedia page for the transit, which has all kinds of cools stats. Uncharacteristic of my bad luck, I lived through a June cluster, making it near certain I'd see the two events. I joked with my wife the other day that we probably won't even be in a position to see the next one, should the weather fail me this time. Looking at the wiki, I see the next December transit will in fact not be visible from my spot on the globe. I woke up this am and realized... I have nothing to look forward to now. I'd better get on the stick, I'm thinking my first grand child's graduation... I'll be 67 then...

ansed
ansed

Actually it will be another 105.5 years astronomers predict until the next transit occurs and the two best places in the us to view the transit from start to finish is Alaska and Hawaii. You can view it from Alaska by clicking here :http://www.sems.und.edu/Eclipse_Video.php

omb00900
omb00900

When you were a kid and someone told you that you were five years old, you probably made sure to correct them that you were five and a half years old.

pgit
pgit

How about this one... On the day of my 5th birthday I took a walk around the corner and down the long side of the city block we lived on. I'd never walked that far down the street alone before. I figured 'I'm 5 now, I can go farther by myself!' 3/4 of the way down the block I spotted a boy about my age sitting on the railing of his porch. He leaped down and approached me with a smile. I opened the conversation, saying excitedly "I'm five!!" "I'm five!" he replied. I was thrown for a loop.. I got angry and said "No, I'm five!!" He simply said again "I'm five," matter of fact-like. I got angrier as this same exchange was duplicated, perhaps a dozen times. I was really getting worked up. Finally I said "Look, today is my birthday and now I am five years old!!!" He finally paused for a moment, and obviously realized my confusion, "we're both five!" he said, putting his palms up in front of himself in welcome. I finally realized what a dink I was, we both laughed for minutes over my simple misunderstanding. We became best friends and remained so until they moved out to the 'burbs when we were (both!) 10. It was within a year or so of that day that I read about the transit of Venus, I remember clearly being motivated by the fact. I didn't think it was possible I'd make it to 2004, let alone 2012. But I witnessed both, and Tuesday was a more spectacular day than I could ever imagine. The location was perfect, the Presque Isle lighthouse behind me, Lake Erie making the western horizon, crystal blue skies... I can expire now with no regrets.

omb00900
omb00900 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Next transit December 2117. I believe that's 105 years, if I remember my grade school math!

bboyd
bboyd like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like
omb00900
omb00900 like.author.displayName 1 Like

And you get my upvote! You would have thought that the title of this article would have been corrected by now. Oh well. It's not like anyone alive today is going to miss it because they thought they had another ten years!

qwetry
qwetry

If you have a CD/DVD without anything printed on either side, you can look through the foil.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

unless you will not need your eyes later.

bboyd
bboyd

Even optometrists disagree on what a safe level is. Obviously magnifying the sun is a bad idea but many people can tolerate direct sun images and even stronger arc welding light. I'm not in that camp and will use a bit of auto adjusting welding glass on my scope. Most people could just make a viewing box from a shoe box and simple instructions for eclipse viewing. http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/how.html

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

I was in N California for the Annular Eclipse last month and several people had the shoebox pinhole camera setup. For an eclipse that might work okay, but the image was less than 1/2" tall. Trying to view something very small like Venus crossing the sun would probably be impossible, or at least not very satisfying. Even using my eclipse glasses it was a little difficult to make out the disk of Venus on the sun yesterday. Projecting with a pair of binoculars is the easy way to do this. If you have a telescope with a solar filter that is better, but since most people have binos that is undoubtedly the easiest.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

but when it comes to my eyes, where there is doubt - there is no doubt. If the clouds clear it will be the old 60mm refractor in projection mode.

omb00900
omb00900

People just tend to repeat what they've heard without any regard for the actual truth!