Transit of Venus


OK .. talking astronomy … there is an interesting event approaching. The planet Venus will pass between us and the Sun in the early hours of June 6th (if you’re in the UK). It’s called a Transit of Venus, and such events are VERY rare. In fact, it’s doubtful if any of us alive today will live to see the one after this – it’s in December 2117. Some of us were very excited to see the last one … they occur in pairs …. in 2004. There is no difficulty on predicting transits … but it’s pretty unusual to see them.

How to view the transit, if you’re interested? The most important thing is NOT to try to look at the Sun – with the naked eye, or any kind of instrument such as binoculars or telescopes, unless you’re REALLY sure you know what you’re doing, and the correct filters are in place over the front end of the device. Best advice – project it instead!!! Here’s a picture I hadn’t seen before, of me in Patrick Moore’s garden in 2004, projecting an image of the Sun, with a ‘Heath-Robinson’ home-made attachment to my 4″ telescope. You can see that the light is directed sideways out of the tube of the telescope (which is also home-made), through the eyepiece, towards a piece of white card held up by some adapted wire coat-hangers! It’s rough and ready, but it works … you can see the image of the Sun on the card, and – just about – a small dark dot which is Venus.

Bri - Transit of Venus Party
On the 8th June 2004 many invited astronomers gathered at the observatories of Sir Patrick Moore to observe a transit of Venus across the face of The Sun. Here, Queen legend Brian May eagerly awaits first contact.

Here’s a link to a great film that my friend Jamie Cooper made at the last transit. It gives a nice preview of what we hope to see on June 6th.

Transit of Venus

and here’s a still taken just when the transit was about to be over.

Transit of Venus by Jamie Cooper
Photos by Jamie Cooper

One more thing. Don’t get TOO excited about this. For us in the UK, the event will be almost over by the time the Sun rises. You will stand a much better chance of seeing it in the USA – or Australia. But if we’re lucky, with clear skies, there will be about a half hour window for us to see our sister planet silhouetted against the Great Life-Giver in the Sky. I will be, with fingers crossed, in Selsey.