The Night Sky: Transit of Venus

Oh Venus! Hey Venus! Make my wish come true! (For clear skies on June 5, 2012)

If skies are clear on June 5th (fingers crossed), we will be able to see a Venus transit. A Venus transit is a very rare event. It occurs when Venus is exactly between the Earth and the Sun. We will then see Venus in silhouette and it will look like a small black dot moving in front of the Sun. The event begins when Venus enters the Sun’s disk at 6:04pm local time on Tuesday June 5th 2012. The Sun will set with the transit still in progress more than two hours later. We will not be able to see Venus leave the Sun’s disk from Connecticut.


Venus Crescent

Since Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth, at times we can see it as a crescent. As Venus moves between the Earth and the Sun, the daylight side of Venus faces away from us; thus we see Venus as a crescent phase. That was the case on May 17, 2012, when I took the attached picture of Venus. I used a Canon T2ia attached to a 16” LX200 telescope at the Mary Aloysia Hardey Observatory at the Convent of the Sacred Heart.

This is a ‘goodbye’ picture of Venus. It was low in the western sky when this picture was taken. In the days since Venus has left the evening sky as its angular separation from the Sun decreased. It will transit the Sun on June 5th, and then it will reappear in the morning sky shortly thereafter.

2004 Venus Transit

This picture is of the 2004 Venus transit. This is how the event will look on June 5, 2012. Venus is that small black dot in front of the Sun. It is about 1/32 the diameter of the Sun during a transit. You may notice the lack of sunspots. In 2004, the Sun was near a sunspot minimum in its 11-year sunspot cycle. I used an 8” Celestron telescope and an Olympus OM1 (with film!) camera. I was located at a Penn State college sub-campus in eastern Pennsylvania.

Bowman Observatory

The Bowman Observatory is located on the grounds of Julian Curtiss School in Greenwich near the junction of Milbank Avenue and East Elm Street. It is open to the public on second and forth Tuesdays of every month, weather permitting. It is also open for rare and special celestial events, such as the transit of Venus. The Bowman Observatory will employ two methods for viewing this event. The first is a modern system using a digital camera sending video to a computer screen. The second technique uses a telescope to project the Sun’s image onto a white screen. It was the same method used by Jeremiah Horrocks for the first Venus transit observation in 1639.

NOTE: You will cause damage to your eyes if you try to view the Venus transit without a proper solar filter. The best way to view this event is to visit a local observatory. The Bowman Observatory in Greenwich will have safe, free public viewing of the Venus Transit on June 5th starting at 6PM, WEATHER PERMITTING.

The next Venus transit will happen in December of 2117. If is it cloudy this Tuesday, then we are out of luck and we’ll have to wait 105 years for the next one (grin). If the skies are cloudy, I suggest you check the internet for a live video broadcast of the event. A NASA webcast of the Venus Transit can be found here…

I’m sure there will be other broadcasts as well.

Clear Skies!


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Elyse June 05, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Details on how to watch it can be found at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/06/120604-transit-of-venus-2012-sun-planet-hubble-space-science-how-when/ ("Perhaps the safest way to watch the transit of Venus is to make a pinhole camera, ...To do so, cut a hole about a quarter-inch (0.6-centimeter) wide in a piece of cardboard paper, and use the hole to project an image of the sun onto a flat surface, such as a wall or sidewalk.") as well as http://www.spaceweather.com/
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