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Watch a heavenly body travel

sun with black spot on it

Venus will cross in front of the Sun with its whole passage from beginning to end on Wednesday 6 June 2012.

As Venus's dark silhouette move across the disc of the Sun we will be witnessing one of the rarest and most famous events in astronomy, a transit of Venus, which will not occur again until December 2117.

What is a transit?

A transit occurs when, as seen from Earth, a planet appears to move across the disc of the Sun.

Only the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, can ever be found between the Sun and the Earth and therefore be seen in transit. A transit does not occur each time the planets are in the same

direction as the Sun because usually they pass above or below the Sun in the sky.

A transit is somewhat like an eclipse of the Sun.

Transits of Venus are very rare. They occur twice eight years apart and then not for over a century. They are more famous than the relatively common transits of Mercury as scientists in the 18th and 19th century used them to establish the scale of the Solar System.

They are of especial interest to Australians since Lieutenant James Cook’s voyage to Tahiti to observe the 1769 transit of Venus led to the European settlement of the continent.

Eastern Australia and most of New Zealand will provide good locations from which to view the transit, as it will be visible from there from beginning to end.

Come and watch the transit of Venus at UTAS…it’s your last chance to do so until December 2117!

Who: All are welcome to this free public event.

What: The transit of Venus live viewing, and talks on the history and significance of the transit

When: 8am-3pm, Wednesday 6 June 2012.

Where: University of Tasmania School of Mathematics and Physics, Physics Lecture Theatre 1 (Located level 2 of the Physics Building).

How to watch the transit safely:

The best way is to visit your local observatory, planetarium or local amateur astronomical society.

It is possible to safely watch the transit yourself if you have a small telescope or a pair of binoculars. Use the telescope or the binoculars to project the image. With

your back to the Sun, aim the telescope towards it (this is not as difficult to do as it sounds – use the shadow of the telescope) and focus its image onto a white card held about 20 cm behind the

eyepiece. Venus will appear as a black spot with a width of 1/33rd of the Sun’s width and should be easily seen.

DO NOT LOOK THROUGH THE TELESCOPE OR ITS LITTLE FINDERSCOPE. Never leave the telescope unattended and ensure that children are supervised at all times. Viewing the projected image is quite safe, but looking through the telescope or binoculars will cause almost instant blindness.

Published on: 28 May 2012 11:52am