2012 Venus Transit SUUUUUUUUUPER-POST!
Unless you happen to be Moses or Rip Van Winkle, chances are that June 5-6 (that’s this week, folks) will play host a once-in-a-lifetime event: The transit of Venus in front of the Sun. This rare passage of Venus across the solar disk won’t happen again until December 2117, at which point we will all be extremely deceased, barring scientific miracles.
This rare event was hugely important for early astronomers, as it allowed the first accurate measurements of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, as well as the size of Venus itself. Today, it’s more of an event to excite the amateur astronomer in all of us, but still worth checking out.
First, your obligatory “Venus Transit GIF”:
Here’s everything you need to know and more:
- Who can see it, and when? Check out this map of when and where the transit will be visible. City-by-city (Universal, not local) times listed for the U.S. and international cities. Or use this calculator. Or download this app to take part in a global crowdsourced experiment on solar system measurements.
- The olde dayse: How a 20-year-old named Jeremiah Horrocks corrected Kepler’s math and recorded the first transit data (and the image above) in 1639, inspiring Edmund Halley and James Cook to launch global science expeditions during the next transit.
- How can you watch it? Without a telescope, the ol’ pinhole camera tricks probably won’t give a very good image since Venus is so small compared to the Sun. Here’s where you can watch it online, and here’s a directory of local astronomy clubs that might be holding viewing events (if they are worth their salt).
- Take part in a global Venus Transit Twitter experiment to update measurements from around the world and see how accurate the distances are.
- How the Hubble telescope will use the Moon as a mirror to view the transit.
- A series on how Americans raced the Soviet Union to explore Venus and what we learned about this 1000˚F planet with a carbon dioxide atmosphere with almost a hundred times more pressure than Earth.
- If you must, here’s a guide to solar photography with a digital camera. I can’t be responsible for you ruining your toys, though. And please don’t look at the sun, even through a camera. Like ever.
Enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime event!
(image adapted from the drawing of Jeremiah Horrocks, via Jennifer Ouellette)