Next month we will be the last people living today to witness one of the rarest astronomical events. On June 6, a special celestial event called the transit of Venus will take place, and it won’t be repeated in your lifetime.
During the transit, Venus will pass directly in front of the sun from Earth’s perspective, appearing as a small moving black dot.
The entire transit can be witnessed from eastern Asia, eastern Australia, New Zealand and the western Pacific, as well as Alaska, northern Canada and almost all of Greenland.
How rare is this astronomical event?
Transits of Venus occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by gaps of 121½ years and 105½ years. Only six of these transit have been recorded by civilization: 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882, and 2004. This June’s transit, the end of the 2004-2012 pair, won’t be repeated until the December 2117. This is the last chance for anyone alive today to see the rare celestial sight. Fortunately, the event is widely visible.
Unlike a total eclipse of the sun, which is visible only within a long narrow track traced by the moon’s shadow, during the 2012 transit of Venus the entire hemisphere of Earth facing the sun will get to see at least part of the planet’s solar crossing.
Astronomers during the 18th Century travelled thousands of miles and risked their lives to witness this precious sight.
They did so because they believed Venus held the key to the most pressing astronomical quest of the age: the size of the solar system.
In 1716, astronomer Edmund Halley realized that by timing the transits of 1761 and 1769 from widely-spaced locations on Earth it should be possible to triangulate the distance to Venus using the principles of parallax and give the distance between Earth and the Sun.
For astronomers today, the Transit of Venus offers a chance to gain insights into the planet’s notoriously thick, cloudy atmosphere, and use the refraction of sunlight to finetune techniques for hunting planets orbiting distant stars.
One of the most useful exercises will be to compare observations of the transit made by Earth-based telescopes, orbital telescopes and robot probes.
The Transit of Venus (TOV) is among the rarest astronomical phenomena and won’t happen again until the year 2117. So prepare now, and don’t miss out on this extremely special event!
Observing the TOV from the Philippines
Filipinos are lucky because the entire Philippines is well positioned to witness the transit of Venus on Wednesday 6th June 2012.
To those who are planning to observe this rare event, you might just be interested in joining us in this free public viewing.
June 06 2012, 6am – 1pm
College of Science Amphitheater, University of the Philippines Diliman
This event was launched through the collaboration of the Australian Embassy, UP Astronomical Society, UP- Los Banos Astronomical Society, RTU Astronomical Society, DOST-PAGASA and D’Great Rovers.
This event is for FREE and is open to everyone. Even those who would be coming from other parts of the globe are invited.
For more details, please visit its Facebook event page:
The general transit circumstances can be found here.
Warning: NEVER look at the sun with your naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. Serious and permanent eye damage, including blindness, can result.
- Six ways to see the transit
- Fred Espenak’s Solar Eye Safety
- Transit of Venus.org Safety
The Black Drop Effect
The black drop effect occurs when Venus appears to “connect” to the edge of the Sun before actually reaching the edge. You can model the black drop effect by slowly pinching your index finger and thumb together. Your fingers seem to meet even before they touch. This optical phenomenon was originally thought to provide proof of Venus having an atmosphere. For an explanation of the black drop effect, check out the following links:
A YouTube video of modeling the black drop effect with your fingers:
An online simulation of the black drop effect:
Other resources if you are looking for more information on the Transit of Venus:
On 6 June, an event that takes place only four times every two centuries will enthral the world’s astronomers, as it has ever since the 1600s – but now it can provide priceless data in the hunt for habitable planets in deep space and in re-measuring the distance of the sun from Earth.
Venus will appear as a tiny speck on one side of the Sun in a few weeks and will slowly traverse the solar disc for a few hours. The movement of that little black dot may seem insignificant. But it is one of the rarest sights in astronomy, an event known as a transit of Venus. Miss this one and you will have to wait until 2117 for the next.
Image credit: NASA/LMSAL
As seen from Earth, only transits of Mercury and Venus are possible. On average, there are 13 transits of Mercury each century. In contrast, transits of Venus occur in pairs with more than a century separating each pair.
For Northern Hemisphere locations above latitude ~67° north (including the Philippines) all of the transit is visible regardless of the longitude.
A lot of astronomy-enthusiasts globally are preparing for this rare event. Some are even planning to travel in places where the transit will be fully visible.
As part of this preparation, visibility maps of the transit were created by volunteer groups to guide local observers. One of the efforts is called the Transit of Venus Project which is part of the Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) program. AWB is a global collaboration in astronomy.
Aside from providing useful information to the public about this event, the TOV Project also aims to form a collection of translated maps of the 2012 transit of Venus for different languages so that the transit of Venus will be enjoyed by more people around the world. Of course, some people would appreciate a map in their own native language.
Michael Zeiler of Eclipse-maps.com (and also one of the curators of the TOV Project website) sent me a message via Twitter asking for help with translating a summary map of the transit of Venus (June 5-6, 2012) into Filipino.
Here is a copy of the map:
These are the phrases to translate: World visibility of the transit of Venus on June 5 & 6, 2012 Venus overhead at transit maximum Entire transit visible Transit not visible Transit starts before sunset and ends after following sunrise Transit starts before sunrise and ends after sunset Transit visible from sunrise until end Transit visible from start until sunset Venus touches Sun’s disk at sunrise Venus within Sun’s disk at sunrise Venus within Sun’s disk at sunset Venus touches Sun’s disk at sunset
I made a draft of the translation in Filipino and consulted some professors from the Filipino Department of UP Diliman. Upon deciding that it the translated words were good enough, I emailed everything to Mr. Zeiler and he produced this map containing the translated phrases.
6 June 2012 Transit of Venus Visibility Map in our local language, Filipino. Credit: (map) Michael Zeiler/(translation) Raven Yu
Please take note that some of the phrases were not translated into its direct meaning but more of its contextual meaning so as not to confuse the map users.
Check out this link to view the translated maps of the 2012 transit of Venus for different languages.
If your language is not provided, you can help add a new map by following the simple instructions at this page.
You can also find local contact times of the transit at http://transitofvenus.nl/wp/where-when/local-transit-times/.
Remember that it is not safe to view the sun directly because it might damage your eyes. Read here for tips on how to safely view and photograph the transit using the right equipment and proper eye protection.
Don’t miss this rare spectacle! Clear skies!