“Why the astronomical community should be so exercised over a planet’s movements; why their emotions should culminate when a shadow impinges upon or fades from the solar substance; why the transit of the planet should be called apparent; why Professor This should perch himself upon a pile of volcanic rocks in the Southern Pacific and Professor That shiver in the snows of Siberia to pry into an orbital incident happening millions of miles from either – these or something like them, are questions which the untutored many might wish to put to the erudite few.” 1882 account of a Venus Transit in the San Francisco Chronicle
Wonder what the big deal is about a planet’s movements – and why people will go so far to watch this phenomenon? Watch here as NASA EDGE explains:
Transits of Venus—the movement of Venus across the visible face of the Sun—are special events that occur in pairs eight years apart and then don’t happen again for more than a century. Prior to the current pair, the last two Venus transits were in 1874 and 1882. After the transit in 2012, there won’t be another pair until 2117 and 2125. These rare alignments have been important for scientific research, providing data for a very close estimate of the astronomical unit (in 1716, astronomer Edmund Halley calculated the distance from the sun to the earth by having observers across the globe time the passage of Venus across the sun) and allowing us to develop effective techniques to discover and characterize exoplanets. More here on the math, science, and culture of the Venus Transit.
Take part in a global experiment
Great science partnerships between professional and amateur astronomers have also been frequently seen around Venus Transits. Astronomers without Borders is sponsoring the Venus Transit Project, with an app to observe and record the phenomenon from as many locations as possible.
NASA’s Space Weather Media Viewer will also give you the opportunity to explore more of what we know about the sun and how its behavior affects the rest of the solar system.
Where and when can you watch on June 5? Viewing locations and times are here.
How can you get involved and contribute? Resources and opportunities are here.