Transit of Venus

A rare event will take place today, something that won’t happen again this century:  Venus will cross over the face of the Sun.

After Tuesday evening we sink into history’s pages, having witnessed a rare astronomical event: the Transit of Venus across the sun. This won’t repeat for 105 years.

Look to the west Tuesday evening, June 5, Venus begins to cross the sun at 6:04 p.m. EDT Tuesday evening, as a notch in the sun. By 6:22 p.m., from our perspective, Venus becomes a black dot moving across the solar disc.

On this transit, it’s a 6-hour, 40-minute trek for our neighboring, interior planet – and because the sun sets – we only see a few hours of this cosmic memory.

Venus transits occur in pairs, eight years apart, alternating between 105.5 years and 121.5 years apart. Tuesday’s transit is paired with the crossing that last occurred in June, 2004.

Here are the several preceding (and present) pairings, as documented by astronomer Roy Bishop, in the Observer’s Handbook 2012:

* 1631/1639 (each in December)

* 1761/1769 (June);

* 1874/1882 (December);

* none in the 20th century;

* 2004/2012 (June).

Looking ahead, the next pair won’t occur until Dec. 11, 2117 and Dec. 8, 2125.

For many cities in the eastern U.S., including Washington, the transit starts at 6:04 p.m. on Tuesday. The central and western time zones can see more of the transit, while Hawaii can see the whole event.

via Transit of Venus 2012: the last trip across the sun for 105 years – Capital Weather Gang – The Washington Post.

Don’t look at it with your bare eyes or you might burn your optic nerve.  You can watch it here.

I would add that when this happened in 1769, Captain James Cook was sent from England to the Western Hemisphere to study this event.  That voyage led to the “discovery” of Australia.  Capt. Cook would go on to “discover” Hawaii and Alaska.  (The quotation marks mean that I know that human beings already lived in these places, but Capt. Cook was the first European to find them and to open them up for colonization.)

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    “Don’t look at it with your bare eyes or you might burn your optic nerve. You can watch it here.”

    Are you kidding me? Have we come so far that we now watch a Venus transit online? That’s just wrong! The eye damage point is well taken but you gotta get outside for this thing – out where the grass and bugs (and planets) are. What about the old “shoebox with a pinhole” device? Does anybody know if that’ll work for this?

  • Pete

    “Don’t look at it with your bare eyes or you might burn your optic nerve. You can watch it here.”

    Are you kidding me? Have we come so far that we now watch a Venus transit online? That’s just wrong! The eye damage point is well taken but you gotta get outside for this thing – out where the grass and bugs (and planets) are. What about the old “shoebox with a pinhole” device? Does anybody know if that’ll work for this?

  • formerly just steve

    The pinhole camera should work. This link lists the proper ways to view the event… and has a very cool picture of what you would see if you had the proper equipment.

    http://www.space.com/15991-venus-transit-observing-safety-guide.html

  • formerly just steve

    The pinhole camera should work. This link lists the proper ways to view the event… and has a very cool picture of what you would see if you had the proper equipment.

    http://www.space.com/15991-venus-transit-observing-safety-guide.html

  • Pete

    FJS @2

    Thanx

  • Pete

    FJS @2

    Thanx

  • SKPeterson

    Besides the awesome nature of watching this celestial happening, Transit of Venus would be a great name for a band.

  • SKPeterson

    Besides the awesome nature of watching this celestial happening, Transit of Venus would be a great name for a band.

  • cattail

    From what I have read, you won’t see much with a pinhole camera, since Venus is so small that you may not even see it without enlargement. You might try projecting with binoculars (keep the lens cap on the side you’re not using) onto a piece of paper. I won’t get to try these out because (as usual during the Portland Rose Festival) it’s raining here in Oregon. That leaves online as my only choice.

    What fascinates me is the historical aspect, including Captain Cook (involved in local history here in the Pacific NW) and also the efforts to triangulate the distance between the earth and the sun in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • cattail

    From what I have read, you won’t see much with a pinhole camera, since Venus is so small that you may not even see it without enlargement. You might try projecting with binoculars (keep the lens cap on the side you’re not using) onto a piece of paper. I won’t get to try these out because (as usual during the Portland Rose Festival) it’s raining here in Oregon. That leaves online as my only choice.

    What fascinates me is the historical aspect, including Captain Cook (involved in local history here in the Pacific NW) and also the efforts to triangulate the distance between the earth and the sun in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Here’s a good image of the transit, taken from the NASA webcast.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Here’s a good image of the transit, taken from the NASA webcast.

  • Stephen

    I just saw it through a telescope completely by happenstance. A couple guys with telescopes were on top of the parking garage where I park and let me have a look. They also had it patched to a laptop and were photographing it. I could see sun spots and Venus seemed to be floating in front of the sun.

    I guess that’s one very good thing about a baking hot, cloudless day in Texas.

  • Stephen

    I just saw it through a telescope completely by happenstance. A couple guys with telescopes were on top of the parking garage where I park and let me have a look. They also had it patched to a laptop and were photographing it. I could see sun spots and Venus seemed to be floating in front of the sun.

    I guess that’s one very good thing about a baking hot, cloudless day in Texas.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    I saw it late yesterday, but we were pretty lucky, as we had about a 10 minute window due to cloud cover. Did not need a telescope, but had some of those glasses they hand out before eclipses. Without enlargement it appeared as a pinprick only.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    I saw it late yesterday, but we were pretty lucky, as we had about a 10 minute window due to cloud cover. Did not need a telescope, but had some of those glasses they hand out before eclipses. Without enlargement it appeared as a pinprick only.


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