Venus will be passing between Earth and the sun on June 5-6 and will appear as a small black dot on the sun’s surface. It’s known as the transit of Venus and won’t happen again until 2117.
The two orbits of Earth and Venus are at a slight angle which means generally Venus passes above or below the sun. Transits occur in pairs and are separated by eight years, the last one was in 2004. The time between the pairs alternate between 105.5 and 121.5 years.
If you aren’t big into the solar system you might be asking, what’s the big deal about this transit of Venus. This unlocked the biggest mystery of space, the distance between Earth and the sun and later, the size of our solar system. The Methow Valley News reports that “In 1716 the famous astronomer Edmund Halley, after whom Hallley’s comet was named, realized that by observing a transit of Venus from different points on the Earth the actual distance between Venus and the sun could be determined and from there the distances to the other planets.”
If you decide to take a look at this once in a lifetime opportunity, be sure to protect your eyes. Dozens of websites including www.transitofvenus.org offer tips on how to do so.
Here are a few safe ways to watch Venus transit the sun:
- Rear projection screen
- Solar filtered telescope
- #14 or greater welding glass
- Disposable “eclipse shades”
- Live webcast
Even if the weather in your area keeps you from seeing the sun, you can watch the transit via NASA’s live remote webcast from atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
Transit of Venus
Methow Valley News also tells us to mark May 20, 2012 on our calendars to witness a partial eclipse of the sun. The event starts late in the afternoon and again you will not be able to view the eclipse without eye protection. The next eclipse of the sun visible from the United States will be in the year 2017.