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Venus to transit sun in June
May 2, 2012 11:02 AM   Subscribe

There's a little black spot on the sun today.... Venus transits the sun in June - it's a once-in-a-lifetime event for most of us. (Bonus song lyric links here and youtube here)
posted by Lynsey (45 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hear Captain Cook will be live-tweeting his observations from the Endeavour. The carrier pigeons should arrive in a few months.
posted by yoink at 11:07 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would have been good to know about this about eight months ago.
posted by goethean at 11:13 AM on May 2, 2012


So it will happen during a six hour period spanning the end of June 5, through midnight, and the early hours of June 6. It doesn't mention whether that's GMT or North America time or somewhere else, but it seems like it won't be visible from the US, right?
posted by squarehead at 11:19 AM on May 2, 2012


Everybody go outside and look directly at the sun. It might take a while to find Venus, so keep at it.
posted by cmoj at 11:28 AM on May 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


Squarehead, the wikipedia article and map seems to suggest that it or part of it will indeed be visible from the US.
posted by Lynsey at 11:30 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


This table shows when you can see it. The time is given in universal time, so subtract the proper amount for your timezone. It seems like the entire US will be able to see some part of it.

Please watch it safely. Use eclipse glasses or #14 welder's glass.
posted by ubiquity at 11:31 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


(seem)
posted by Lynsey at 11:31 AM on May 2, 2012


Woo! Any tips on where to see this from?
posted by jeffburdges at 11:32 AM on May 2, 2012


BTW, if you're on the West Coast (or west of there), you will be able to see the annular eclipse on May 20. So a small investment in proper viewing equipment will pay off doubly.
posted by ubiquity at 11:32 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]



Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun. But, Mama, that's where the Venus is....
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:40 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this quote Lynsey.
posted by timsteil at 11:46 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw it in 2004 and am looking forward to seeing it next month in 2012.
posted by WestChester22 at 11:48 AM on May 2, 2012


If 2004 was any indicator, it is pretty hard to see without magnification. If you choose to view it with eclipse glasses or similar, venus will be difficult to see.

The Exploratorium has instructions on how to use binoculars to safely view a magnified version of the transit.
posted by keeo at 11:50 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Lynsey.
posted by squarehead at 11:52 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cool! Hang on while I run out to take a quick looAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 11:53 AM on May 2, 2012


It's the same old thing as eight months ago.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:57 AM on May 2, 2012


This.
posted by Fizz at 11:58 AM on May 2, 2012


If 2004 was any indicator, it is pretty hard to see without magnification.

2004 was Mercury, a smaller planet that is much further away.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:01 PM on May 2, 2012


Farther, even.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:11 PM on May 2, 2012


Venus did transit the sun in 2004. It does it in 8-year apart pairs, every 100 years or so.
posted by dng at 12:19 PM on May 2, 2012


Sys Rq

The last mercury transit was in 2006. Mercury transists are much more frequent. 2004 was the last Venus transist.
posted by WestChester22 at 12:20 PM on May 2, 2012


Oh. I guess I just assumed from the breathless "once-in-a-lifetime" talk in the post...

*skulks away*
posted by Sys Rq at 12:25 PM on May 2, 2012


Am I the only one who finds it amusing that seemingly every astronomical event is billed as "once-in-a-lifetime" through artfully narrowed definitions?

I realize it's doubly difficult to entice people to do a science activity and go outside, but sheesh!
posted by fairmettle at 12:27 PM on May 2, 2012


I learned about Guillaume Le Gentil's terrible misfortune in trying to document the transit of Venus from Bill Bryson's classic, A Short History of Nearly Everything.

tl;dr: it did not go well for him.
posted by mullingitover at 12:33 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The story of astronomers' quest to measure the exact time of the transit and derive an important quantity -- the distance from the Earth to the Sun -- is a fascinating tale. This book recounts it nicely.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:33 PM on May 2, 2012


Also, "twice in a lifetime" would be more accurate.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:36 PM on May 2, 2012


"Ladies, Ladies," Mason calls. "- You've seen her in the Evening Sky, you've wish'd upon her, and now for a short time will she be seen in the Day-light, crossing the Disk of the Sun,- and do make a Wish then, if you think it will help.- For Astronomers, who usually work at night, 'twill give us a chance to be up in the Day-time. Thro' our whole gazing lives, Venus has been a tiny Dot of Light, going through phases like the Moon, ever against the black face of Eternity. But on the day of this Transit, all shall suddenly reverse,- as she is caught, dark, embodied, solid, against the face of the Sun,- a Goddess descended from light to Matter."

-- from Thomas Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon"
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:38 PM on May 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Am I the only one who finds it amusing that seemingly every astronomical event is billed as "once-in-a-lifetime" through artfully narrowed definitions?

This one is "once in a lifetime" in the sense that if you don't see this one, you probably won't live to see the next one in 2117. Generally, the transits of Venus happen in a cycle with intervals of 8 years, 105 years, 8 years, 122 years.

Also, "twice in a lifetime" would be more accurate.

The average number of transits of Venus visible in an average 70-year lifetime (averaged over birth years) is about one. But this average is one in the same sense that the average person has about one testicle and one breast.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:41 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is once in a lifetime if you lived anywhere on the western side of the US or in Mexico during the 2004 transit and didn't have resources to travel to see it. I posted this AskMe about where to view it in Chicago, and I, personally, am very excited about.
posted by booknerd at 12:45 PM on May 2, 2012


oooh this is one of my favorite topics! Ever since I read Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, I have loved things like this. They really feel like direct ties to history :) Thanks for posting this!
posted by rebent at 12:46 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


@booknerd did you you choose a place for your viewing?
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:58 PM on May 2, 2012


> The Exploratorium has instructions on how to use binoculars

Very good except don't use duct tape to attach binoculars to a tripod- use gaffer's tape. It'll come off without leaving sticky residue all over everything.
posted by morganw at 1:00 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sun: Hey Mercury! You see this spot?
Mercury: Yeah you should get that looked at.
Sun: I think I got it from Venus.
posted by Splunge at 1:23 PM on May 2, 2012


Well fuck. I'll be in Tahiti the following week, which is apparently one of the best places to see the transit. On June 5th, I will be on a plane and therefore absolutely unable to see anything from anywhere.

I should have planned my wedding around my space geekery. FFFFFFFFUUU.
posted by lydhre at 1:59 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm making my own solar filter. Due to a mistake I made drilling holes for a secondary mirror holder, I just thought of a good way to prevent the filter from blowing off. So I probably won't go blind!

Sadly, it looks like the Sun will be setting behind the trees when the transit occurs. I may have to drag the telescope to the parking lot.
posted by dirigibleman at 2:21 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, "twice in a lifetime" would be more accurate.

My daughter was born in 2004, unless she lives to become a centagenarian this will be her only chance to see this transit.
posted by Mitheral at 2:42 PM on May 2, 2012


Am I the only one who finds it amusing that seemingly every astronomical event is billed as "once-in-a-lifetime" through artfully narrowed definitions?

I remember my best friend and I climbing out on a roof with drinks in 1990 for a total eclipse of a full-moon. There was so! much! hype! I am almost certain they made some claim about once in a generation, etc. But really, it seems like they happen every other week somewhere*.

*Not really.
posted by looli at 2:45 PM on May 2, 2012


I love transits. I remember viewing a Mercury transit through my little 2 inch refractor (projected on a card, not viewed directly) when I was a kid, a little research shows that would have been May 9, 1970. You really need some sort of optical device to view a transit, the planet is so small it's below the resolving power of a pinhole.

Venus transit cycles are pretty interesting. There are several synodic cycles of eclipses that interleave. Each cycle has eclipses 243 years apart, it's sort of like the lunar eclipse Saros Series.

Also worthy of note, a Solar eclipse coming on May 20.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:50 PM on May 2, 2012


There's also a partial lunar eclipse the night before.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:06 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The night before the Venus transit, I mean.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:06 PM on May 2, 2012


That's not Venus. That's my soul up there.
posted by Flunkie at 4:17 PM on May 2, 2012


Argh. This looks really cool, but I am having a stupid hard time figuring out the time conversions. If I have this correct, this should be starting Pacific Standard Time's 2 p.m.! That's...probably not correct, right?
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:56 PM on May 2, 2012


The picture on my profile page is from a Kodachrome slide I took of the 2004 transit of Venus - so, needless to say, I'm psyched up for this one. (Thanks for the post!)

(jenfullmoon, we're currently on Saving Time, so I'm pretty sure it starts at 3pm PDST for you.)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:58 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


But this average is one in the same sense that the average person has about one testicle and one breast.

You know who else that was half-true for?

or may all true, for all we know
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:53 PM on May 3, 2012


If anyone's still reading this thread and wants to watch the transit, this website shows you the time and progress of the eclipse at your location. If the clock face is black, it means the sun is below the horizon for you at that stage of the transit. There's also a free iPhone app for practicing your eclipse-viewing chops and submitting your observations of the transit.
posted by Quietgal at 9:02 PM on May 31, 2012


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