Transit of Venus: then and now

Transit of Venus, Lunar Eclipse, Highlight June Sky

ICTMN Staff
6/2/12

The world is abuzz awaiting the transit of Venus that will take place on Tuesday June 5 (Wednesday June 6 if you’re in Europe, Asia, Australia or Africa).

Venus has been giving us quite a show this season, cavorting with the moon, Jupiter and even the Pleiades. But now the second planet from the sun is making its most spectacular appearance yet, crossing between Mother Earth and our star as a small black dot.

It will do this over the course of six hours, give or take, the second in a pair of transits that take place a few years apart, twice a century if we’re lucky—the last set occurred in the 1800s, skipping the 20th century—and the next one won’t happen until 2117.

What the annular solar eclipse of May 20 dazzled, the transit of Venus is more subtle. Other than requiring one to stare at the sun (taking great care to shield the eyes), they couldn’t be more different. In contrast to the eclipse’s ring of fire, the transit of Venus is much more subtle: The planet will appear as a black dot moving slowly across the great golden orb.

Stay tuned over the next few days for more coverage, including the Mayans’ fascination with Venus, and the Navajos' departing from tradition to view the sun. And moving from there to modern science, the second video below shows how astronaut Don Pettit plans to work his camera magic.

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