June 5, 2012
Final Countdown: Transit Of Venus Closing In
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
The Transit of Venus is upon us, so grab your sun viewing spectacles, head outside, and go get yourself a look at a cosmic event.
For those kiddos that will be born today, or in the next few years, statistically speaking you will be able to rub this moment in most of their faces when they get older, because they will not get to see Venus pass by the Sun at any point in their lifetime.
The next time the Transit of Venus will occur will be the year 2117. Also, don't get too cocky with your cubicle neighbor at work who admitted they decided to stay inside, because the transit comes in pairs every 100 years, so they may have got their fill back in 2004. So, instead, ask them what they were doing June 8, 2004, then gloat accordingly.
Don't be so bold as to think you need to get into a staring contest with the Sun either, because gazing into our celestial heater can actually cause blindness, or at the least severe damage to the eye. As flies learn in the summer with bug zappers, starring into the light is not always a good idea.
So at this point, maybe your saying "Quit toying with me, Lee!. First you say I'm about to get some leverage for future grandkids, then you say I'll go blind if I do so." Well, take a look at this excerpt from our friends at National Geographic about what you should do in order to properly view our local star.
"To watch safely, observers should always use special 'eclipse glasses' or telescopes equipped with solar filters. Perhaps the safest way to watch the transit of Venus is to make a pinhole camera, said Pasachoff, who is also a National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration grantee. (National Geographic News is a division of the Society). To do so, cut a hole about a quarter-inch (0.6-centimeter) wide in a piece of cardboard paper, and use the hole to project an image of the sun onto a flat surface, such as a wall or sidewalk."
As you gaze accordingly into the light, scientists will be focusing their space instruments on the spectacle to try and get a better understanding of Venus.
Researchers from all over the world are using this unique opportunity to understand more about the atmosphere Venus possesses, as well as learning how to observe exoplanets in other solar systems.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will be the first crew to ever watch the Transit of Venus from space. Even though astronauts were aboard the ISS back in 2004 during the first transit, NASA did not read redOrbit back then, and were thus uninformed about needing to bring their proper sun viewing optics with them when going outside of the Earth's atmosphere.
So head outside in a few hours and grab some sunscreen, because our solar system is about to get a lot more magical to backyard sky gazers. And stay tuned to redOrbit.com tomorrow for images of this year's event!
Image 2 (below): Venus hangs low in the evening twilight near a razor-thin crescent moon in an undated picture taken from Troms County in northern Norway. Photograph by H. Baesemann, Blickwinkel/Alamy
Image 3 (below): A crescent Venus shines in an ultraviolet snapshot taken by the NASA-ESA Hubble Space Telescope in 1995. As Venus circles the sun, it appears to go through phases that mimic those of our moon when seen through a telescope. Image courtesy ESA/NASA (Related: "'Hot Jupiter' Planet's Phases Seen–A First.")