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    Think of this as a "companion text" to this, the main web site. Not required reading, butI hope you'll find it interesting and helpful.

Venus transit June 5/6, 2012 – you don’t want to miss this one!

UPDATE – The transit went well for many folks throughout the world. For a personal observing report and a few pics I took, go here. For lots and lots of pictures , go here.  And for other transit observing experiences, go here.


Transit as seen from Westport, MA through a hole in the clouds.

Study this NASA map to see whether you are slated to see all of the transit of Venus on June 5/6, 2012, or part near the time of local sunrise, or part near local sunset. (Click image for larger version.)

On June 5/6, 2012, most of the world will have the chance to see all – or part – of a once-in-a-lifetime  event – a transit of Venus across the face of the Sun.  CAUTION: To view this, even with the naked eye, you must use proper protective filters. Binoculars and telescopes must be equipped with such filters and if not, used only to safely project an image of the event – not looked through.

That said, here are three shots simulating the event as seen from Westport, MA. From this East Coast location we will see only the first couple of hours of the transit, then our view will be interrupted by sunset. Notice that Venus will appear to enter near the “top” of the Sun, This location and path vary with your position on Earth. (At the end of this post are several links. The second of these links gives you specific information on the time and the path of Venus across the Sun as seen from your location. In the images below, the Sun is festooned with sunspots and other features. Such features may or may not be seen depending on what is happening on the Sun at the time of the transit and on the type of solar filter used to view the event.

Predicted path of Venus transit across the face of the sun as seen in astronomical telescope (flips image horizontally) from Westport, Ma. Click image for larger view. (Prepared from Starry Nights Pro screen shots.)

Did you find the images exciting? Probably not. But it should give you some idea of what to look for on June 5, and there is no substitute for seeing the real thing as it happens.  There’s also no substitute for understanding what it is you’re viewing and why – besides the fact that there won’t be another such transit for more than a century. No wonder so many people are very excited about seeing it. I’ve already seen one such transit – as have many others – for these events come in pairs fairly close together, and the last one was visible just eight years ago.  But I still will make every effort to see this one, and if the weather forecast says my local view is likely to be obscured by clouds, I’m ready to drive a couple of hundred miles to get to some place that’s clear.

Here, in a nutshell, is why I find this event so exciting:

  • There won’t be another chance to see a transit of  Venus until 2117.
  • On display will be the full majesty  – and magic – of our gravitationally-powered solar system where Venus – a body almost as large as the Earth – passes directly between us and the Sun at a distance of bout 30 million miles.
  • More than 200 years ago many scientists risked life and limb to travel to distant locations on the Earth in attempts to view the transit and accurately time it.  Such observations, they hoped, would unlock the secrets of the size of our solar system – secrets that despite their best efforts remained hidden. As noted in the New York Times, “Sea travel was so risky in 1761 that observers took separate ships to the same destination to increase the chances some of them would make it alive.”
This event is covered in so many different ways with wonderful graphics, wonderfully accessible details about when you can see it from your location, and terrific stories, that I would be trying to reinvent the wheel to repeat it all here.  Instead, I urge you to take advantage of the links below.

Some useful transit links

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