The planet Venus will make a rare pass between the Earth and the Sun and will be visible worldwide on June 5, 2012. The event happens only twice every 120 years and this is the second passing, the last once was in 2004. It will also be the first time since the 1800’s that it will be visible to all of North America.
As Venus transits the sun, it will appear as a black spot but will be a worldwide sensation according to NASA. The transit will begin at 3:09 pm Pacific time and take nearly seven hours to make the pass, leaving the sun’s glowing ball at about 9:45 pm.
According to NASA, it will be an excellent opportunity for photographers but have warned viewers to not stare directly at the sun, instead use precautions such as a solar filter or a #14 welders glass for protection. The best time to view it or take pictures will be just before sunset.
It will be visible on all seven continents, though Antarctica will only see a small sliver of it.
When viewed through a telescope, past observers say it looks like a black hole has punched a hole into the sun.
Amateur telescopes should provide a good view of the event as telescopes overall have improved significantly since 2004, nearly tripling the viewing power.
The event first drew astronomers attention in the 1700’s as scientist wanted to know the size of the solar system and what the distance between planets was.
Edmund Halley discovered a way to calculate the distance by observing planets transit the sky from different places on earth. The famous explorer James Cook was even sent on a trip to Fiji to observe and record a passing. Shortly after that, the cook was the first to document the existence of Hawaii.
Last time Venus made the pass in 2004, astronomers were able to see the atmosphere of Venus as it was back-lit by the sun and discovered huge magnetic storms.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is already watching the sun in the hopes to learn even more about Venus and the Sun and what effects it can have on earth, however small.
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