2012 Transit of Venus Roundup
If you haven’t heard by now, the planet Venus will be transiting the Sun on June 5/6th 2012. The transits occur in pairs, separated by over one hundred years. The previous transit of Venus was in 2004. Interestingly enough, there were no transits visible from Earth in the 20th century! Before the 2004 transit, the previous occurrences were in 1874 and 1882! During the transit, observers with proper solar viewing equipment will be able to see a small block dot move across the face of the Sun. The black dot that is visible is Venus!
I would suggest that if at all possible, you try to catch this relatively rare event, since the next pair of Venus transits won’t happen again until December 2117 and December 2125!
WARNING: Do not attempt to look at the Sun without proper solar viewing equipment! If you use a welder’s mask, make sure it is at least shade #14. Sunglasses do not offer adequate protection. If you use solar film on your telescope/binoculars, or a pair of “eclipse” glasses, carefully inspect them to make sure no cracks or pinholes are present in the film.
With the obligatory warning/disclaimer out of the way, keep reading for some great resources that may help ensure a memorable experience!
First off, one of the best resources (in my opinion) is the NASA eclipse website. Located at: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html the NASA eclipse website provides great data on upcoming eclipses, as well as transit data. On the site you can also find time tables for your specific location, along with viewing track information.
Next up is a guide from NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine at http://www.astrobio.net/pressrelease/4771/how-to-observe-the-transit-of-venus Not only does the guide provide great information on how to view this relatively rare event, but there’s also a bit of history on prior attempts to view the transit in the late 1800′s. Also included in the guide is a bit of information on why transits are interesting, from a scientific standpoint.
My buddy Scott Lewis will be coordinating a number of “live cast” transit events on Google+ at his “Know the Cosmos” blog. If you are unable to attend an actual event, keep an eye on Scott’s blog (or add he and I to your Google+ circles) for information on Venus Transit “hangout” events and webcasts.
One more transit link from NASA is their “Sun-Earth Day” site which features an interactive map of transit events across the world. You can look for an event in your area by visiting the Sun-Earth Day page at: http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/2012/about/event_locations.php
Those of you who still use Facebook, there is a Facebook group for the Transit of Venus. If you’d like to join the group, visit: http://www.facebook.com/groups/108400462513165/
If you don’t feel like travelling to a transit event, and have some basic tinkering skills, you might be able to build a “Sun Funnel” in time for the transit.
A detailed instructable on building the sun funnel is at: http://transitofvenus.nl/wp/observing/build-a-sun-funnel/
One other excellent source of information is from the aptly named website “The Transit of Venus” at: http://www.thevenustransit.com/p/venus-transit-read-first-and-faq.html
Last, but certainly not least, If you want to see what the transit will be like in your area of the world, check out this interactive transit simulator from Sunaeon:
That wraps up this mini-guide for the 2012 Transit of Venus. Hopefully this information will help you have a safe, enjoyable and memorable transit viewing experience. Remember, DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN WITHOUT PROPER EQUIPMENT!