It won’t happen again until December 2117. On June 5th, 2012, Venus will transit the face of the sun in an event of both historical and observational importance. The best places to watch are in the south Pacific, but travel is not required. The event will also be visible around sunset from the USA. Credit: Science@NASA
On June 5th, 2012, Venus will pass across the face of the sun, producing a silhouette that no one alive today will likely see again.
Transits of Venus are very rare, coming in pairs separated by more than a hundred years. This June’s transit, the bookend of a 2004-2012 pair, won’t be repeated until the year 2117. Fortunately, the event is widely visible. Observers on seven continents, even a sliver of Antarctica, will be in position to see it.
The nearly 7-hour transit begins at 3:09 pm Pacific Daylight Time (22:09 UT) on June 5th. The timing favors observers in the mid-Pacific where the sun is high overhead during the crossing. In the USA, the transit will be at its best around sunset. That’s good, too. Creative photographers will have a field day imaging the swollen red sun “punctured” by the circular disk of Venus.
Observing tip: Do not stare at the sun. Venus covers too little of the solar disk to block the blinding glare. Instead, use some type of projection technique or a solar filter. A #14 welder’s glass is a good choice. Many astronomy clubs will have solar telescopes set up to observe the event; contact your local club for details.