Social Question

rebbel's avatar

The transit of Venus tomorrow; worthwile to get my telescope out of its box?

Asked by rebbel (24949points) June 4th, 2012

Venus will transit across the Sun’s face (5–6 June) for the last time, before it will do so again in about a hundred years.
Am I wrong in assuming that it is not a good idea to watch directly into the sun (with a telescope)?
Is there something to see for me (apart from seeing Venus being beautiful in the first place) if I go out tomorrow at night?

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12 Answers

Mariah's avatar

You need a particular filter to safely view the sun. Welder’s glass would work.

I definitely think it’s worth it. You won’t get this opportunity again!

gailcalled's avatar

No. It is a daytime event; Venus is visible as it crosses the sun’s face. You’re much better off and also run no risk to your eyes by watching it from a site like NASA.

Here is a site that enables you to find the local times of the transit.

A live feed will be embedded in the NASA page here:

gailcalled's avatar

Here’s a good suggestion for using your binocs.

“Or try using a pair of binoculars, preferably with a magnification power above 7, to project the sun’s light onto the sidewalk or a piece of paper. If you’re able to find an image of the sun, look for a tiny dot showing the image of Venus.”

Rarebear's avatar

Do not get your telescope out unless you have a solar filter. I also do not recommend using binocs as @gailcalled mentioned as the optics will get very hot.

Here is information on how to view it. I will be live broadcasting it online:

Several people have asked me how to watch the Venus transit tomorrow. Please do not look directly at it, or through x-ray film, or even welders glass. It lasts for hours and you can damage your eyes.

We will be broadcasting the transit tomorrow on Google Plus. Egress is at about 3:06 Pacific time. Cosmoquest and Universe Today will be broadcasting it starting about 2:00 and lasting for the entire transit (about 7 hours) depending on weather. I will be broadcasting from about 2 to 7 along with several other amateur astronomers. It will be moderated by Fraser Cain of Universe Today and Astronomy Cast, and color commentary by Phil Plait, Pamela Gay and others.

I may not be able to post a link tomorrow as my computer will be taken up with streaming, but if you circle Pamela Gay, Cosmoquest, and/or Fraser Cain on Google Plus you will see the feed. Also, you can go to Also, there will be live youtube links. If you follow @starstryder or @cosmoquestx on twitter, links will be there too.

Rarebear's avatar

Here is more on our broadcasting plan from Fraser Cain, publisher of Universe Today:

Venus will make a rare transit across the face of the Sun on June 5/6, and for this historic event, we’ll be coordinating unprecedented live coverage right here on Google+.

Starting at 20:00 UTC (2:00 p.m. PDT, 5 pm EDT) on Tuesday, June 5, a live 8-hour Hangout on Air will provide views from around the world using multiple telescopes along with commentary from astronomers, space scientists and other guests.

Viewers will also have the chance to interact and ask questions about this rare and historical event to learn more about its significance to aiding our understanding of the Solar System.

I’ll be teaming up with +Pamela Gay and +Philip Plait and many more special guests. During this 8-hour marathon, we’ll provide information on how you can safely observe this event for yourself, as well as sharing telescope views from around the world (New Zealand, Canada, California, Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina, and more) .

The transit will be broadcast as a live Google+ Hangout on Air, and on YouTube live. It will also be embeddable on any website that wants to share live coverage of the transit.

We’ll also be showcasing photographs and other coverage from the public, astronomers and even space telescopes.

Watch the transit live, right here on Google+
If you want to watch, circle any one of us, and you’ll see it in your feed. You’ll be able to then watch the live coverage in your browser, just like any YouTube Video. You can also circle the +Virtual Star Party page. You can also use the hashtag #venushangout to get our attention on Google+ or Twitter.

Some transit science and history
A transit like this occurs when Venus passes directly between Earth and the Sun. Viewers will see Venus as a small dot gliding slowly across a portion of the Sun. Historically, viewed by Captain James Cook and other famous astronomers from days gone by, this rare alignment is how we originally measured the size of our solar system.

There have been 53 transits since 2000 B.C. but only six transits of Venus have been observed since the invention of the telescope more than 400 years ago. There were no transits of Venus from 1882 to 2004, and the next one won’t take place until 2117. The last time the event occurred was on June 8, 2004, and was viewed by millions worldwide. This year, observers on six continents and a small portion of Antarctica will be in position to see at least part of it.
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filmfann's avatar

Don’t bother with the telescope. I am going to try and use my binoculars, but not how you are thinking.
I will aim them at the Sun, and look at the image on the ground. I should be able to see it there.
If that doesn’t work, I will simply use the NASA site.
It is a very small window, visible for about 5 hours I believe.

Rarebear's avatar

@filmfann Be very careful with the binoculars trick. I know people who have burned out the optics in their binocs because of the heat. It’s generally not recommended.

If you look at my posts above you’ll see other options if the NASA website gets overloaded.

rebbel's avatar

May I thank you all for your answers (with links and all)!
We will set the scope up anyway tonight, if it was only for a bit of general star gazing.

Rarebear's avatar

Always good to set up a scope for star gazing.
There is a new Google Plus page for our broadcast this afternoon. Circle “Virtual Star Party” on Google Plus and it’ll be there. The moon on the front page is mine.

Mariah's avatar

Dad and I had great luck; the forecast didn’t look promising (cloudy) but we decided to head out and hope for a clear patch. We got more than just that; after an initial wave of clouds went through it was almost perfectly clear until sunset. Venus was still transiting when the sun set where I am, but what we were able to see was spectacular. Viewed it with the naked eye and through my dad’s telescope, both with filters of course.

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