If you missed it in 2004 then this Tuesday, June 5th will be your last chance in your lifetime to witness planet Venus crossing the face of the Sun in the sky. Considered by many as one of the rarest of skywatching events, you will have to wait until December 2117 for the next one!
Why are Venus transits so rare? It really has to do with the orbit of Venus around the Sun. While it does take significantly less time to circle our parent star than Earth does, its orbit is tilted some 3.4 degrees when compared to the plane of the solar system ie. all the other orbits are in pretty much the same line. What this means for observers on Earth is that the planet only appears to actually cross the Sun in pairs – 8 years apart – in intervals of 105 and 121 years. All other times Venus will glide just above or below the disk of the Sun , from our line of sight here on Earth.
Best places in the world to see the whole 6 hour 40 minutes of the entire transit will be in Asia and the Pacific region where it occurs during the middle of the day. In North America observers will see either the first half before sunset while Europeans will get to view the last half after sunrise.
Here is worldwide timetable (credit: Starry Night Software via Space.com)
Note: Contacts in the table above refer to when the edge of Venus appears to make first and last contact with the Sun’s limb as it enters and exits the solar disk.
Venus will appear as a black dot, 1/30th the size of the solar disk, – looking like a pea in front of a watermelon. While this means that its disk would be big enough theoretically to be seen without any help of optics the safest way to view the eclipse is through telescopes equipped with solar filters, or with #14 welders glass. Remember NEVER to look at the sun directly without protection – it can cause blindness.
MY suggestion is try and look up astronomy clubs that will have public transit viewing parties. In the United States there are tons of events planned right across the country, so check out Night Sky Network listing. Here in Canada I recommend consulting the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s for a listing of their local chapters holding events and also check out their excellent Venus Transit site for tons of background information.
What happens if you get clouded out for the event then you can still check it out virtually at least as there will be dozens of LIVE internet feeds of the transit showing live video from telescopes around the world.
Make sure you bookmark this page because on Tuesday afternoon and I will be hosting some of the major video feeds from around the world right here!
in the meantime, to whet your appetite, check out this great NASA video on what all the buzz is about with this Transit of Venus….
Tags: Venus transit
Posted in Planets, Solar System, Sun | Comments Off