Planet-watchers, take note. A rare event is coming to the sky next week. On Tuesday, June 8, Venus will cross in front of the sun for the first time since 1882, as seen from Earth.
But don’t try to watch it with your unprotected eyes. Staring at the sun can cause serious damage. If you have access to the right kind of equipment, though, and you’re in the right place at the right time, the planet will look like a black dot drifting across the sun’s surface.
This illustration shows the path that Venus will follow across the sun’s surface on June 8, as seen from Earth. Called a transit, this crossing will take about 6 hours.
|Fred Espenak, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center|
The event, called a transit, will last about 6 hours. In the eastern United States, people will be able to see only the last 90 minutes of the event. Europe will be a much better place to witness this momentous occasion.
Better yet, anyone can watch it happen on the Internet. The transit will begin at about 12:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and end at about 6:30 a.m. EDT. From 12 a.m. to 7 a.m. EDT, the Norwegian Astronomical Association will Webcast the event from a few places in Norway at www.astronomy.no/.
You can also go to the Web site www.exploratorium.edu/venus/ (Exploratorium). From 1 a.m. EDT to 7 a.m. EDT, a crew from the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco will send images from Greece.
If you live in a place where the transit will be visible, you can try watching it by allowing sunlight to shine through a pinhole onto a piece of paper. Look down at the paper, not up at the sky, to watch Venus cross the sun’s face.
It’s worth finding some way to experience the event. Venus will cross in front of the sun only one more time this century—in the year 2012.—E. Sohn
Cowen, Ron. 2004. Live! Venus’ transit on the Web. Science News 165(May 29):350. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040529/note12.asp .
______. 2004. Shades of Venus. Science News 165(April 17):247-248. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040417/bob8.asp .
You can learn more about the 2004 transit of Venus at the following Web sites:
www.astronomy.no/venus080604.html (Norwegian Astronomical Society/Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Oslo)
sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/sunearthday/2004/index_vthome.htm (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
www.transitofvenus.org (Chuck Bueter)