News / Science & Technology

    Rare Astronomical Event to Occur June 5-6

    Suzanne Presto
    Skywatchers on all seven continents will get a chance to witness an astronomical rarity on June 5 or 6, the transit of the planet Venus.  It is likely the last time anyone alive today will have a chance to view one.

    That's because after this year's transit of Venus, the next one is in 2117.

    Transits of Venus have happened only six times since the phenomenon was first observed with a telescope in 1639, and only once since the invention of the television.

    People around the world turned out in 2004 to watch as Venus passed across the face of the sun - seen from Earth for the first time since 1882.

    Venus appeared in silhouette, casting a small black dot on the sun.

    It's an uncommon event, but not necessarily a spectacular one.

    "What actually happens to the casual person who doesn't know it's happening is nothing," explains David DeVorkin, the senior curator of the history of astronomy at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington.  "Okay, there won't be any change in the brightness of the sky and, you know, birds won't come home to roost or anything like that.  But if you know it's happening, it's really quite interesting." 

    The event is interesting, in part, because it is so rare.  Transits occur in pairs, and the pairs are separated by more than a century.  The upcoming transit bookends the transit of 2004.

    "If you're looking safely at the sun, you will see a spot appear on the edge of the sun that is about 1/30th the size of the disc of the sun itself, and over a few hours' time, it's simply going to drift across the sun and keep going," DeVorkin says.   

    The key, as DeVorkin notes, is to view safely.  You should not stare directly at the Sun, but you can use glasses and telescopes with protective filters.

    Scientists in previous centuries used the transits to answer questions about the solar system.

    "Astronomers realized way back in the 17th century that if you could very accurately time this appearance of Venus going across the sun, and time it as accurately as you can from two widely different parts of the Earth, you could use the different timings to triangulate to find out how far we are from the sun, and that was a fundamental question," says DeVorkin.

    Scientists, astronomers and adventurers, including famed British explorer Captain James Cook, launched expeditions to observe and gather data about the transit pair in the 1760s.

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Suzanne Presto from: Washington
    June 01, 2012 1:14 PM
    Hi Skywatchers,
    The U.S. space agency has a Transit of Venus Web page with a very helpful map! http://venustransit.nasa.gov/2012/transit/viewing_locations.php
    And there's also a page with tips for safe viewing. http://venustransit.nasa.gov/2012/transit/viewing.php
    Happy Venus viewing! -- Suzanne Presto, Reporter, VOA News

    by: iip syarifah from: indonesia
    June 01, 2012 9:34 AM
    unfortunately...at that time i can not see the incident and also I did not see on the news about venus passed across the face of the sun ...if I knew certainly I will see it even on television

    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    June 01, 2012 6:20 AM
    In Japan, annular sun eclipse was observed a few weeks ago. It was really a spectacular show of about half an hour. The sky turned dark and it became a bit cold. Now, the planet going in front of the sun is the venus. I do want to see the event becuse it is said pretty rare about every one hundred year. Can this event be seen also in Japan?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora