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Home Blogs Debbie Piecka Viewing the 2012 Venus Transit

Viewing the 2012 Venus Transit

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Written by dpiecka
01 Jun 2012

Safe viewingWhat are your plans for viewing the upcoming Venus Transit on June 5?  The following descriptions portray some of the many plans for this rare event.  One of the rarest astronomical phenomena, a transit of Venus, will occur on the evening of Tuesday, June 5. Similar to a solar eclipse, Venus will move across the face of the sun and block light from the sun to Earth. The planet's transit will take about six and a half hours to travel across the face of the sun. 

This is your last chance to see a Venus transit until 2117, so make plans to watch this rare and beautiful event. The transit will be viewable from many places around the world, and this map shows global viewing locations.

Sun-Earth Day: Shadows of the Sun

For over 100 years the main quest of astronomers was to pin down the distance between Earth and Sun (the Astronomical Unit), which would give them a key to the size of the solar system. Careful studies of the transit of Venus became the gold mine they would harvest to reveal this measure.

Live Web CastLive Webcast from Mauna Kea, Hawaii

On June 5, 2012, the Sun-Earth Day NASA team will air a live 'remote' webcast from a mountainside Visitors Station site near the observatories in Hilo, Hawaii. This location will give a wonderful view of the entire transit with little chance of cloud cover to a worldwide audience. More Webcast Information


Safe Solar ViewingSafe Viewing Techniques

You can experience the transit of Venus safely, but it is vital that you protect your eyes at all times with the proper solar filters. Learn More About Safe Solar Viewing


Aboard the ISS

High above Earth, astronaut Don Pettit is preparing to photograph the June 5th Transit of Venus from space itself.

ISS Venus Transit Prep
A new ScienceCast video describes Don Pettit's planned observations of the 2012 Transit of Venus.

"I've been planning this for a while," says Pettit, who serves as Flight Engineer onboard the International Space Station. "I knew the Transit of Venus would occur during my rotation, so I brought a solar filter with me when my expedition left for the ISS in December 2011."

Because transits of Venus come in pairs that occur once every 100 years or so, humans have rarely had the chance to photograph the apparition from Earth, much less from Earth orbit.

"The Expedition 31 crew will be the first people in history to see a Venus transit from space, and Pettit will be the first to photograph one," says Mario Runco, Jr. of the Johnson Space Center (JSC). Runco, an astronaut himself who flew aboard three shuttle missions, is an expert in the optics of spacecraft windows. Along with his wife Susan Runco, who is the coordinator for astronaut photography at JSC, Mario is helping Pettit gather the best possible images of the transit.

Taking Science-Grade Photos in the ISS Cupola The Cupola is an European Space Agency-built observatory part of the International Space Station. It features seven windows especially designed for conducting experiments, dockings, and making special observations such as the Venus Transit.

Pettit will be pointing his camera through the side windows of the space station's cupola, an ESA-built observatory module that provides a wide-angle view of Earth and the cosmos. Its seven windows are used by the crew to operate the station's robotic arm, coordinate space dockings, and take science-grade photos of the Earth and sky. It's also a favorite "hangout" for off-duty astronauts who find the view exhilarating.

"For this transit, Don will be removing the non-optical quality, internal protective window panes known as 'scratch panes,' which really make crisp, sharp, and clear images impossible," says Runco. "Removing those panes is a huge plus when it comes to details that will be seen in the imagery of the sun."

Pettit describes the camera system: "I'll be using a high-end Nikon D2Xs camera and an 800mm lens with a full-aperture white light solar filter."

"Even with this great camera system, the images would be quite soft if the scratch panes were not removed," notes Runco. "This is only the third time that we'll be [shooting through] the Cupola's optical quality windows. I'm hoping this becomes routine in the future."

This month's transit is the bookend of a 2004-2012 pair. Astronauts were onboard the ISS in 2004, but they did not see the transit, mainly because they had no solar filters onboard. Tiny Venus covers a small fraction of the solar disk, so the sun is still painfully bright to the human eye even at mid-transit. Pettit's foresight to bring a solar filter with him makes all the difference.

Web Chat: Watch the Venus Transit Live!

Venus transit 2004, seen near West Orange, N.J.
The 2004 Venus transit, seen near West Orange, N.J. (Copyright John Cudworth. All rights reserved.)
View large image

On Tuesday, June 5, experts from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will answer your questions about the Venus transit via live Web chat. The chat will be open from 5:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. EDT. (convert to your local time here.) A host of planetary and solar scientists will be available to answer your questions:

Joining the chat is easy. Simply go to the NASA Chat web page a few minutes before 5:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 5. (convert to your local time here.) The chat module will appear at the bottom of this page. After you log in, wait for the chat module to be activated, then ask your questions!

Other Ways to Learn About the Venus Transit

For more information about the worldwide events, safety precautions for viewing, educational content and social media activities, visit:

For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and scheduling information, visit:

The public can follow the event on Twitter on #venustransit and download a free phone App at:

The Venus Transit phone app, will allow individuals to send their observations of the 2012 transit of Venus to a global experiment to measure the size of the solar system.

No matter how you watch the 2012 Venus Transit, share your experiences on NASATalk!

Last update (01 Jun 2012)


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