Venus eclipses the sun! It's the astronomical event of the year, maybe the century.
Usually paired in two sightings eight years apart, the second and last time the phenomenon occurs this century will be on June 5-6, 2012.
The last Venus transit of June 8, 2004 had astronomers, the media, and even spiritualists buzzing. Rightly so, too, since the Venus transit is no ordinary event. It hadn't occurred in 122 years. No one alive today had ever experienced it before.
Now it's happening again for the very last time this century. After 2012, subsequent transits of Venus will be in December 2117 and December 2125.
With best viewing throughout most of Asia and Australia, the 2012 Venus
transit from June 5-6
will be visible throughout the planet, except for
a large swath of South America and the west coast of Africa.
Simply put, Venus, a fast moving planet, can be compared to a runner on
the inside track. It has less distance to travel and therefore has the advantage. This is what Venus will be doing as it surpasses
the earth waving hello - and goodbye - to planet Earth on June 5th or 6th, depending on your location.
While you can expect to see a good handful of lunar and solar eclipses throughout
your lifetime, a transit of Venus is another planet passing across the face of the sun.
For those who will be able see the entire event, it will take approximately
6 hours for the passage to occur, with the luckiest viewers located in Asia and Australia. While the transit will be visible at various points to most everyone on the planet, many parts of South America will be blacked out from the event this time around.
On the US West coast, watch for the transit to begin around 3PM local time on June 5. Those on the US East coast will have to act fast as the transit becomes visible around sunset at 6PM. For those in Europe, sunrise on June 6 will be optimum viewing time.
Safely viewing the Venus transit
A simple pinhole projection is the
safest way to view solar eclipses.
As the excitement builds, a huge worldwide viewing audience is expected. As with any solar eclipse -- protective eyewear for the Venus transit is necessary to view the passage without damage to your eyes.
The safest way to view the Venus transit or any solar eclipse, say experts, is to construct a simple pinhole projection.
Create a pinhole by poking a hole in a sheet of paper or cardboard. Hold another sheet of paper directly behind it to "see" the transit as it happens. This allows you (or a whole group of friends) to view the transit while avoiding any chance of exposure to the sun's harmful rays.
If witnessing the eclipse through a camera or telescope, be sure to attach a solar filter to the lens before viewing.
Although a significant media event -- as well as creating tremendous excitement
-- religious and spiritual leaders rather see the Venus transit as the time of a new spiritual awakening. Countering arguments for the end of the world in 2012, many see the Venus transit coupled with the 2012 winter solstice signaling a new Golden Age for mankind.
In addition, astrologers predict that Venus - often associated with the feminine - will have strong influence on women power and may set the stage for a return to peace and stronger equal rights as women gain more influence on the international stage beginning in 2012.
Venus transit fun fact
American composer John Philip Sousa, the popular "March King," got so
caught up in the excitement of the last transit in 1882 that the result was his Venus Transit March. (Pump up the volume and give a listen.)