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Will You Watch Venus in Transit?

This 2012 event won't happen again for more than 100 years. Do you have a local spot where you plan to watch it?

A little after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, residents of our area will have an opportunity to witness one of the rarest predictable celestial events: a transit of Venus.

Often referred to as the "Evening Star" or "Morning Star," Venus is the brightest natural object in our sky after the Sun and the Moon. As the second planet from the Sun, it's closer to the Sun than the Earth is. 

A "transit" of Venus occurs when Venus passes between us and the Sun in such a way that we can see Venus's silhouette backlit by the Sun's brilliant light. It last happened in 2004, but it won't happen again until 2117. Unless you plan to shatter some human longevity records, this is probably your last chance.

Were Venus either large enough or close enough to block out the Sun's light as it passed, we would call this event an eclipse, as we do when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. Venus, however, is a little bit smaller than the Earth and about 27 million miles away. When its tiny silhouette is viewed against the Sun, which lies another 66 million miles beyond, it can offer viewers a dramatic sense of the solar's system's vast scale.

Assuming sufficiently clear skies, the transit will be visible for us starting at about 6:04 p.m. on Tuesday and will remain so until the sun sets. Those in the central and western U.S. will be able to enjoy it longer, while viewers in Alaska, Japan, and large sections of Australia, China, and Russia will be able to see it in its entirety. By the time the Sun rises on the East Coast on Wednesday, Venus will have completed the transit.

How to watch

Never look directly at the sun with your naked eyes. You can damage your eyes. Likewise, viewing the sun with either binoculars or a telescope can direct the sun's magnified rays directly into your eyeball and cause serious injury―think about what happens to ants under a magnifying glass.

Sunglasses do not provide sufficient protection. If you know someone who works in plumbing or construction, ask them if they have any #14 welder's glass. You can look directly at the sun through this material without risking injury.

If you have a tripod or a partner and a pair of steady hands, you can use binoculars to project an image of the Sun onto a white piece of paper. Remember, don't look through your binoculars at the sun!

Though it's not quite the same as viewing the phenomenon in person, there are several places to watch the transit of Venus online:

Lastly, there's Don Pettit, an astronaut currently aboard the International Space Station. Pettit's not doing a video feed, but he will become the first person to ever photograph a transit of Venus from outer space

Are you going to watch it? Let us know.

Frank Mercuri June 05, 2012 at 05:23 PM
It is still dangerous to not have your eyes protected. In order to get the proper plane between you and the sun you have to sight in on the spot to view. The pin hole camera system will not provide the amplification as would a telescope or long lens on a camera. again the proper way to view the phenomena is using eye protection such as a welder's goggles. I do not have any filters but a 4 density filter. the weather, cloudy skys will not allow a good view but still will be glarey needing sun light protection.
Denise Voegel June 06, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Spectacular show, we went to Breakwater Beach in Mattituck-forutnately right when the sky cleared. Several people were there with their telescopes set up, and were kind enough to let us take a few looks.. Truly remarkable sight- I hope to see some pics on Patch..
Erin Schultz June 06, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Great you got to see it, Denise. If anyone has any pictures please email them to me - erins@patch.com. Otherwise, hope to see you under clearer skies in 105 years.
SmithtownDad June 06, 2012 at 04:17 PM
My Children and I were able to see the transit at Shubert's Beach in Smithtown. I went on a hunch that the sun might break though the clouds near sunset. At approximately 7:30 pm we used binoculars to observe the sun partially break though the clouds and were able to observe Venus in the top right quadrant of the Sun. We had two brief viewing opportunities that each lasted only about a minute or two and then the Sun disappeared behind the thick clouds. It was pretty cool to observe it directly through the binoculars. Instead of appearing as a solid black dot as you see in all the pictures it was more of a swirly grey color.
K. June 06, 2012 at 06:36 PM
You and your children looked directly at the Sun with binoculars?

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