Today you'll have the last opportunity in your lifetime to witness the transit of Venus. Granted, the , but we wanted you to be aware just in case. After all, the next transit of Venus won't happen until 2117.
The transit of Venus occurs when Venus passes between Earth and the sun. Because of the size of Venus, it doesn't completely block the sun, but it does create a visual spectacle. Check out the video accompanying this article for a simulation.
"At 6:18 pm, the transit begins if there aren't cloudy skies," said amateur astronomer Jim Bencivenga of Ashland. "It takes 6-plus hours for the transit, but if skies are clear, looking west-northwest into the sun with proper filters, you'll see a small black circle in the 10 p.m.area if the sun were a clock. Should be so cool. We won't see the full transit here on the east coast but we will see some of it."
How to watch
Never look directly at the sun with your naked eyes. You can damage your eyes. Likewise, viewing the sun with either binoculars or a telescope can direct the sun's magnified rays directly into your eyeball and cause serious injury―think about what happens to ants under a magnifying glass.
Sunglasses do not provide sufficient protection. If you know someone who works in plumbing or construction, ask them if they have any #14 welder's glass. You can look directly at the sun through this material without risking injury.
If you have a tripod or a partner and a pair of steady hands, you can use binoculars to project an image of the Sun onto a white piece of paper. Remember, don't look through your binoculars at the sun!
Though it's not quite the same as viewing the phenomenon in person, there are several places to watch the transit of Venus online:
- The Slooh Space Camera will offer an 8-hour webcast of the transit that includes real-time video feeds from 10 telescopes around the world.
- Astronomers Without Borders will carry a video stream of the transit from the Mount Wilson Observatory in California.
- NASA will offer a live video feed from Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii with expert commentary.
- The San Francisco Exploratorium will host an online video stream from the Mauna Loa telescope in Hawaii.