I am all set to witness the transit of Venus of the Sun.
I have my telescope all ready and a nice comfortable area picked out–with no obstructions to block my view. My biggest hope is that the weather will cooperate with me on this most momentous occasion.
The first of two transits (they occur in pairs, eight years apart) occurred during the week of June 8, 2004.
I missed that one since it occurred mostly in Africa, parts of Asia, and South America that were lucky enough to see it.
But, this year, much of North America and other select parts of the world will be able to witness this phenomenon, with the best viewing sites in Australia, Hawaii, and Alaska allowing a view of the complete transit. (The transit occurs on June 5th in the Western Hemisphere and June 6th in the Eastern Hemisphere.)
There are four named “contacts” during a transit—moments when the circumference of Venus touches the circumference of the Sun at a single point:
- First contact (external ingress): Venus is entirely outside the disk of the Sun, moving inward
- Second contact (internal ingress): Venus is entirely inside the disk of the Sun, moving farther inward
- Third contact (internal egress): Venus is entirely inside the disk of the Sun, moving outward
- Fourth contact (external egress): Venus is entirely outside the disk of the Sun, moving outward.
A fifth named point is that of greatest transit, when Venus is at the middle of its path across the solar disk and which marks the halfway point in the timing of the transit.
I will be able to see with my eyes the moment of first contact and second contact (the beginning) of Venus’ transit across the Sun, enabling me to see the first three hours of its progress, up to the point of its greatest transit. After the Sun sets, I will go inside and see the completion of the transit, which will be the third and fourth contact, online via my computer.
I have a bottle of Prosecco I have been saving for a special moment. All the time I have had it, there has never been a time when I felt I should open it.
Now is that time.
I will break open the bottle and give a toast to Venus during her transit.
For those of you interested in seeing the transit the following links, from my weekly Sky & Telescope posts, will give you all the information you should need.
But, if you miss this celestial event, the next pair will only occur in December 11 and December 8, eight years apart ——in the years 2117 and 2125.
Courtesy Lorenzo Comolli.
Bulletin at a Glance
Transit of Venus – Special Coverage
S&T‘s Audio Sky Tour
This Week’s Sky at a Glance
May 29, 2012 | The upcoming transit of Venus is one of those rare and momentous spectacles in observational astronomy that you absolutely don’t want to miss. Read about what you can expect to see. > read more
May 25, 2012 | Find out where you can view June 5th or 6th’s transit of Venus online. > read more
March 4, 2012 | On June 5th (in the Western Hemisphere) or June 6th (in the Eastern Hemisphere), Venus will pass across the face of the Sun for the second time in 8 years — and for the last time until 2117. > read more
May 30, 2012 | The transits of Venus are separated alternately by 8, 105, or 121½ years, making June 5-6′s transit the last we’ll see in our lifetimes. Find out the method behind the madness of Venus’s transit cycle. > read more
May 25, 2012 | When you observe the upcoming transit of Venus on June 5th or 6th, will you see the black drop? > read more
Joint Astronomy Centre
May 31, 2012 | Although not a total surprise, a decision announced today by the United Kingdom’s Science and Technology Facilities Council means that two long-time residents of Mauna Kea’s observatory complex might soon be shut down. > read more
May 28, 2012 | Astronomers from South Africa and Australia had each made a case for hosting what will become the world’s largest radio telescope. But the international partners decided to award portions of the project to both countries — an unexpected compromise. > read more
May 31, 2012 | Pulsars, supermassive black holes, and white dwarfs are all tools in astronomers’ arsenals as they continue to push Einstein’s theory of general relativity to its limits. > read more
May 30, 2012 | Reach for the Stars aims to bring astronomy back into Afghanistan’s elementary school curriculum in a way that resonates with the region’s culture and history. > read more
Sky & Telescope diagram
June 1, 2012 | The transit of Venus gets the big attention this week — but do you know about the partial eclipse of the Moon one day earlier? > read more
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