Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Venus Transit of 2012

What is the Venus transit?
The Venus transit means that an observer on earth sees Venus pass directly in front of the sun. This requires that Venus be exactly between the Sun and the Earth and also that Venus will be on the same plane as the Sun-Earth plane. While generally all planets are on the same plane, there are small differences which makes the Venus transit very rare. 

The next Transit of Venus will be at June 6 2012, and will be visible (at least partially) from most of the world. Venus transit is quite rare and there are only 4 passes in 240 years, usually in pairs of two transits within eight years (The last transit was in 2004). Maybe several of the young readers will be able to see the next transit (2117 in case you wonder), but for most of us it is a remarkable chance to observe this interesting phoneme.

Safety is required. Although the transit is similar to a partial lunar eclipse, there are major differences. Venus apparent size is much smaller than the sun, so Venus blocks only a small portion of the sun. During the transit it will not get any colder or darker and if you do not know that there is a transit you will not be able to notice it at all.

To View the transit you will need special equipment. Never look directly at the sun with your eyes or with an optical device. Do not use old films, dark glasses or even welder glasses. The best method is to use special solar eclipse sunglasses. They are not expensive, buy several for family and friends and use them. You will see a small dark circle on the Sun.

Also check your local astronomy club association. The Venus transit is a major events, so many clubs will open their gates and give the public the chance to view the transit through a telescope. Even if you do have your own telescope and binoculars, don't use them since viewing the Sun requires special equipment.