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?
After leading a hands-on workshop to make the inexpensive devices, AAS Education & Outreach Coordinator Richard Tresch Fienberg wrote and illustrated Build a Sun Funnel for Group Viewing of Sunspots and the Transit of Venus (updated April 2013). The how-to manual gives clear, step-by-step assembly instructions and sources for inexpensive materials.
See Eye Safety for more techniques and advice for viewing the sun safely.
SPANISH VERSION; courtesy of Manuel Alvarez, Instituto de Astronomia Sede Ensenada B.C.
Note: Da-Lite screen can be purchased from http://www.bigscreencenter.com/Venus-Transit-Sun-Funnel-s/4476.htm.
For the day of the transit you may want to have certificates available that include a place for the participants to mark their observed times of internal contact.
On display at the poster session will be my Countdown to the Transit of Venus (left), which answers some common FAQs about the transit, addresses the June 5/6 confusion, and suggests some ways for educators and students to be active in the 2012 transit of Venus experience. Please introduce yourself to me during the dedicated poster time, or look for me during the rest of the conference. I welcome your input, suggestions, and corrections.
The Transit of Venus Project is organized by dedicated volunteers who seek sponsorship support for several aspects, including the Transit of Venus phone app. For a modest investment you can have front billing to what Google Zeitgeist deemed the #1 Most Popular Event in the the world in June 2004. Now is the time to step up, both for astronomy education and for corporate prominence.
Mark the date on your calendar – June 5, 2012. That Tuesday (for North American viewers) we have an unparalleled opportunity to promote astronomy education and public outreach as the last transit of Venus of our lifetimes takes place. This rare event has happened only seven times since the telescope was invented more than 400 years ago. The last Venus transit in June 2004 – the first since the 19th century – was such a global sensation that Google’s Zeitgeist proclaimed it the #1 Most Popular Event in the world for the whole month! With your participation and support we can surpass even that incredible success. Read on to see how you can contribute to an unprecedented effort to engage the astronomy community, educators and the public in this historic event.
Expeditions sent around the world during the 18th and 19th century to observe this rare event and to time its occurrence from widespread locations in an attempt to measure the scale of the solar system are the stuff of legend. In 2012, professional and amateur astronomers will replicate historic Venus transit observations, some using antique instruments at historic sites. There are several projects already being planned for locations where the transit is visible. For observers in the continental United States, Venus will appear on the Sun’s limb in the afternoon, slowly gliding across its face until the pair sets in the west.
Each century since Jeremiah Horrocks first recorded the 1639 transit of Venus, astronomers have developed new tools to tease more information from this rare dance of the planets. Great advances were made as telescopes, photography, and satellites were utilized, and the 21st century adds its own unique new technology. I and other volunteers are creating a phone app that observers worldwide will use to contribute their observations to the global effort to quantify the Astronomical Unit, the distance from Earth to the Sun that is the primary yardstick of the Solar System. The tap of a button is all that’s needed to mark the time of internal contact and send it, along with observer's location and local time, to a global database. The app will also help users find local observing events, live webcasts, online programming, and more from various social media. Developed under the aegis of Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) (http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org/), the app will be widely distributed free to the public by AWB and others.
As of this writing there are no apps that address the transit of Venus among the hundreds of thousands of apps available, despite the event’s known popularity. The app and the programs that will utilize it will give you and your audience an easy, fun way to participate in this rare event. Just as previous transit of Venus expeditions (such as James Cook's first voyage) contributed to international efforts, the modern global astronomy community can measure the size of the solar system we inhabit – all without the difficulties, dangers and expense of the historic expeditions. This time, everyone can take part. It fits with the AWB slogan – One People, One Sky.
Be bold. While major funders are being sought, this volunteer effort needs the early support of those like you who understand the value of engaging the public during rare celestial events. With only one year remaining we need to keep the momentum going with the aid of those closest to the project. Send the major funders a message that the astronomy community endorses and supports this important effort.
Please support this important educational project by making a donation on the AWB web site. Your donation will be made via credit card through PayPal, but you DO NOT need a PayPal account to donate. If you or your organization prefers to donate by check, you can send a check made payable to Astronomers Without Borders to AWB, 26500 Agoura Rd., Suite 102-618, Calabasas, CA 91301.
With increased web traffic, major sponsors will have a chance to jump in as well. Steven Van Roode is developing a portal website at www.transitofvenus.nl to accommodate the high traffic that is expected. In 2004 my own website, www.transitofvenus.org, crashed after six million hits (!), so for 2012 we’re building more capacity and employing more robust internet practices.
Please contact me to discuss the transit of Venus phone app or any other aspects of this last transit of Venus in your lifetime. With the 2012 transit of Venus just one year away we need to act now – to prepare teachers at workshops, to ask bands to perform John Phillip Sousa's Transit of Venus March, to confirm unobstructed telescopic sight-lines to the sun, to get into printed community calendars, to register for astronomy conferences, to donate to the cause--I gotta get going!
Thanks for all you do to bring astronomy to the public, and for supporting our efforts to bring modern technology to the 2012 transit of Venus experience.
- Six Ways to See the Transit of Venus
- Viewing the Transit & Eye Safety
- Promo for NASA EDGE Coverage in 2012
- Between Captain Cook and Mauna Kea: The British 1874 Transit of Venus Expedition to Hawaii
- Seeking Goddess for Instant Astronomical Gratification
- Solar Dynamics Observatory to Witness the 2012 Transit of Venus
- Crowd Gathers to Witness the 2004 Transit of Venus
- MichianaSTEM to Feature Imaging of Transits
- Simulation of Kepler Detecting Planets
- Night of the Transit
- Letters to Leaders
- 2004 Celebration in Mishawaka, IN