Will You See Venus’ Transit?
This is the final countdown to one of the rarest sights in the heavens, a transit of Venus. Venus crosses the face of the sun in eight-year pairings, each cycle separated by 115 years. The last transit of Venus was in 2004. The next is Tuesday, June 5. After that, there won’t be another until December of 2117!
Clear skies are a must if we’re to see this, but so is eye protection, as looking at the sun for even a moment can lead to permanent eye damage, even blindness. You may still be able to find solar eclipse glasses or film at some photo shops, or you can buy a piece of No. 14 welders glass from a local supplier. If all else fails, you can project the image onto a sheet of paper through a telescope, one eye of a binocular or even a pinhole camera.
Along Chesapeake Bay, the show begins at 6:04pm, when a small bite appears at the northeast edge of the sun. Within minutes, the tiny crescent grows into a dark sphere, and by 6:22 it is completely within the sphere of the sun. For more than six hours thereafter, Venus worms its way across the face of the sun. Unfortunately for us, the sun — and Venus — sets less than two and a half hours into the transit, well before its finish.
Rain or shine, however, you can watch the whole thing online, as numerous astronomy sites will be offering web-casts. Go to www.skyandtelescope.com for a thorough list.
For a transit of Venus to happen, the sun, Venus and Earth must be just-so aligned, causing all sorts of fear-mongers to prophecize Armageddon. Don’t believe that hype. While this near-perfect alignment is rare in terms of our human lifespan, it is a common occurrence in the life of our solar system.
If you miss the transit of Venus, you can settle for a less rare transit of Mercury, with the next one in May of 2016. However, to appreciate this one you will certainly need binoculars or telescope.