Transit of Venus Story
A transit of Venus occurs when Venus passes directly between the sun and earth. This alignment is rare, coming in pairs that are eight years apart but separated by over a century. The most recent transits of Venus were a thrilling sight in June 2004 and 2012, with the next transit of Venus pair occurring in December 2117 and 2125.
Observers from two locations on earth see two distinct paths (red and blue) of Venus across the sun. The slight difference in times Venus takes, moving from edge to edge, can mathematically unlock the distance from earth to the sun, and thus the size of our solar system. For 17th & 18th century transits, intrepid explorers set out to answer a leading question of mankind. Not all of them made the voyage back home.
Mystery of "Black Drop"Just before or after the circular black dot of Venus seems to touch the edge of the sun, a peculiar "black drop effect" sometimes occurs between the contact points. A ligament of darkness smears the juncture of Venus and the sun. You can see a similar anomaly if you almost pinch your thumb and forefinger together. Just before you sense contact, a black feature spans your two digits.
Transits Lead the Hunt
Once again, transits are on the leading edge of new discoveries. The NASA Kepler mission and others are using the transit method to find habitable planets around distant stars. The Kepler spacecraft monitors over 150,000 stars, looking for periodic dips in their light curves which reveal the presence of companion planets. You, too, can join this quest for new worlds.
Midwest Treasure: TROVE
Art exhibits, family activities, a bus tour, historic artifacts, lectures, webcasts, telescope viewing, and more complemented the visual spectacle near the Michigan-Indiana border. This hub of 2012 transit of Venus activity in Michiana celebrated the math, science, history, and art of the celestial phenomenon.
- Poster: Transit of Venus Time Keg
- Community Celebrates
- Closure for Transit of Venus
- Vision For Future
- Video Follows Michiana Experience
- Transit of Venus Time Keg
- Viewing Great, Timing Difficult
- Time to Set Sail
- What if it's cloudy?
- You Can Learn a Lot From a Dot
- Can I Use Welding Glass to View the Sun?
PRESS RELEASE: 16 May 2012
Who: Dr. Steven H. Williams of NASA Science Mission Directorate, on assignment from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
What: You Can Learn a Lot From a Dot, a talk on the upcoming transit of Venus and other discoveries from celestial alignments
When: Thursday, May 17, at 7:00 p.m. EDT
Where: Penn-Harris-Madison (PHM) Digital Video Theater (map), Mishawaka, IN
NASA Astronomer Celebrates Celestial AlignmentsDr. Steven Williams, a NASA education and public outreach leader, will feature the transit of Venus as he shares his insight on celestial alignments in his presentation You Can Learn a Lot From a Dot, on Thursday, May 17, at 7:00 p.m. at the PHM Digital Video Theater (map). During this last transit of Venus in our lifetimes, Venus will be visible only through protective eyewear as the planet crosses the face of the sun the evening of Tuesday, June 5, 2012.
On assignment to NASA from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Williams will describe how the transit of Venus is like a front row seat to celestial alignments that astronomers seek far away. The transit method is a technique by which astronomers using the NASA Kepler spacecraft are finding new planets around distant stars.
The presentation opens a three-day stint for Williams as 2012 Transit of Venus (TROVE) celebrations get underway in the region near the Michigan-Indiana border, dubbed Michiana. Admission is $3.00 for adults; $2.00 for seniors.
In recent centuries when transits have occurred, nations sent astronomers across the globe in a quest to measure the size of the solar system by timing the duration of the celestial event. Those international experiments will be re-created in 2012 with a simple Transit of Venus phone app that gathers the recorded times and GPS locations of modern observers.
Among the events in Michiana, people can watch the solar spectacle safely from several organized sites with solar-filtered telescopes. Last week, three transit-related art exhibits and a display of historic artifacts and information opened in Mishawaka, Granger, and Benton Harbor. The TROVE Adventure is a treasure hunt involving dozens of local businesses and institutions that provides free solar-viewing shades to families who successfully visit and get a Keyword clue from ten of the Michiana sites. The solar shades are each equivalent to 70 pairs of sunglasses, per Jay Pasachoff, an expert on transit of Venus astronomy.
On Friday, May 18, Williams will travel to Notre Dame and local schools to speak with students about NASA and space exploration. Friday evening he will be at the Michiana Star Party getting underway in conjunction with the Cass County's Celebrate the Earth & Stars in the Park in Vandalia, MI. At the Dr. Lawless Park's Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, Williams completes his tour with the opening talk at 1:00 p.m. EDT.
A partial solar eclipse seen at the Sunday sunset over Lake Michigan is an exclamation point on the weekend. Just as the sun settles toward the horizon, the unseen circular new moon sneaks above the horizon and begins to impinge on the lower portion of the solar disk. It's the beginning of an annular eclipse that is visible in its entirety in some southwestern states. The Kalamazoo Astronomical Society will set up solar filtered telescopes at Warren Dunes State Park in this precursor to the June 5 transit of Venus.
The next transit of Venus visible in the Midwest will occur in December 2125. The most recent Sun-Venus-Earth alignment was in 2004, a global sensation which Google deemed the world's #1 Popular Event that month (Zeitgeist, June 2004).
Michiana astronomy enthusiasts have established TROVE as a Midwest hub of 2012 Transit of Venus programs and are bracing for increased interest during the June 5 celestial apparition. A tour by exclusive motor coach eases the task for enthusiasts to visit many transit of Venus highlights on June 5.
More TROVE events and viewing sites are listed at www.transitofvenus.org/trove.
You may also purchase bulk quantities of solar shades through Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), which has been a strong supporter of 2012 Transit of Venus education outreach. Proceeds from sales of solar shades with AWB branding will benefit the non-profit organization, with the following volume pricing available:
1 - 25 for $0.95 each
25 - 99 for $0.85 each
100 - 250 for $0.75 each
251 - 499 for $0.60 each
500 - 999 for $0.50 each
1000+ for $0.45 each
A partial solar eclipse occurs on May 20, 2012, and could be a fascinating sight at sunset over Lake Michigan. Around 8:15 p.m. EDT (UT-4), the sun will be about six degrees (or a dozen of the sun's half-degree diameters) above the horizon when the encroaching moon first becomes apparent. Silhouetted in the foreground, the moon seemingly rises from the sun's lower right limb and moves across to the sun's left. The conjoined pair set concurrently around 9:00 p.m EDT.
The sun appears as a crescent because the foreground moon, moving basically from right to left from earth's perspective, obstructs light coming from the lower part of the sun. See http://youtu.be/tZQIGLL2BaA or click the YouTube video below to watch an animation of the sunset eclipse from the perspective of a viewer looking west over lower Lake Michigan.
Note: always use proper eye protection to view the sun safely. Failure to protect your eyes can result in vision impairment, eye injury, or blindness.
In the western United States, some people will see an annular eclipse as this celestial alignment is visible in its entirety from some discreet locations. As depicted in the visibility diagram at left, Lake Michigan just barely falls within the zone of visibility for the beginning minutes of the 2012 Annular Solar Eclipse. Details about the annular eclipse by Fred Espenak of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center are at http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEgoogle/SEgoogle2001/SE2012May20Agoogle.html.
The image at right shows the apparent shape of the sun as it nears the Lake Michigan horizon (green line). Members of the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society are intending to set up telescopes at Warren Dunes State Park to witness this solar system alignment.
Not much time for wordsmithing. Basically, a fabulous Venusian ale is made, and now it needs some cool design for related posters and merchandise that celebrate the 2012 transit of Venus. I'm putting out a call to you, friends and artists with a high regard for beer and science, to create and submit a design for consideration in the selection process.You have two options for submitting your entry. First, and preferred, you can send your digital artwork directly to our local printer (Ryan Wanke at CLOAKING ) that will print and mount your image (for fee, below) for display at the brewery alongside the TROVE Art Exhibit. This gives your artistic expression an audience with links to your studio, website, or contact information. You choose (and pay for) the size of your displayed art:
- 24x36 print and mount -- $40.00
- 16x24 print and mount -- $25.00
- 11x17 print and mount -- $15.00
Second, you can simply email your artwork for no fee for consideration by the selection committee. You'll be in the running for the design, but your work won't be displayed publicly unless you are selected as the winner.
Bottom line: Artists, start making your design now for inclusion in the design contest. In crafting your art, think along the lines of what will look good on commemorative pint glasses, posters, and other memorabilia. Contact Ryan Wanke at CLOAKING to arrange payment and submission of your art. Deadline is May 6 (yeah, I know, not much time; sorry, I've been a bit overwhelmed planning TROVE events, managing this website, and other happenings).
The winning artist will be asked to permit his/her artwork to be on merchandise to be sold by The Livery. For compensation the winner will be showered with much glory and transit of Venus prestige, and if you are in the neighborhood I'll put a significant amount of beer in a glass or other container with your name on it. I would expect you'll get a few samples of that merchandise to which I referred. And I'll feature your art in an article at www.transitofvenus.org. Gosh, what artistic transit of Venus enthusiast wouldn't want to contribute to the 2012 transit of Venus experience through a beer legacy? Lastly, for posterity, the winning art design will be included in the Transit of Venus Time Keg (sshhhh, this hasn't been publicly announced yet), a sort of time capsule in a vintage beer keg to be sealed at the conclusion of the 2012 transit of Venus.
One tip: While I welcome colorful artwork, I expect the judges with an interest in printing the logo on pint glasses, for instance, will prefer one- or two-color artwork. You're welcome to submit your cool design in full blazing color, with an optional "for printing" version in fewer colors.
The Venusian ale has been tapped, but will not debut until May 7 for the opening of the TROVE Art Exhibit.
When transits of Venus observers reflect on the experience, they eventually muse about the next 8-year pair of alignments. For example, Jeremiah Horrocks of 1639 fame wrote, "Thy return Posterity shall witness. Years must roll away, but then at length the splendid sight again shall greet our distant children’s eyes." William Harkness looked seasonally forward to when "the twenty-first century of our era has dawned upon the earth, and the June flowers are blooming in 2004."
Now it's the turn of the 21st century transit of Venus pundits and enthusiasts to ponder an equal mystery. How will the transit of Venus be received when it comes around in December of 2117 and 2125? What do you wish to share or convey with those who might in some manner experience a future transit of Venus?
Enter the Transit of Venus Time Keg. It's a time capsule made from a beer keg to reflect our celebratory attitude toward of the 2012 Sun-Venus-Earth alignment. The keg has been donated by The Livery microbrewery of Benton Harbor, MI, and students from the Apprentice Academy of South Bend, IN, are preparing it for use and long-term storage.
Now the keg needs a plaque on the outside, and I solicit your input on the text. In concise terms, what should be written on the plaque affixed to the Transit of Venus Time Keg?
- Galileoscope Solar Filter
- AstroFest in South Bend on April 28
- PHM Transit of Venus Art Contest
- Transit of Venus (TROVE) Art Exhibit
- The Sky for Homeschoolers & Beyond
- Sousa on March 8
- Call for Art: Transit of Venus in Pastel
- Events: APS Museum in Philadelphia
- RASC 2012 Transit of Venus
- Activity: Pixel Count
- Plan a Community Celebration