Transit of Venus: Information

Many people are excitedly planning to watch the planet Venus move across the face of the Sun as viewed from Earth on Tuesday and Wednesday (June 5 & 6, 2012). It is one of the rarest astronomical events to occur when Venus transits between the Sun and Earth, something that will not happen again until 2117.

The rare celestial event will begin around 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) and end at roughly 12:50 a.m. EDT (0450 GMT) Wednesday. The exact timing could differ by a few minutes from location to location around the globe.

The trek lasting nearly six hours and forty minutes has been observed six times in recorded history, and according to scientific calculations, it would happen again only after 105 years. People in the United States and Canada can observe the transit when Venus first touches the outer edge of the Sun. Astronomers call this first step in the passage, Contact 1, where you may see a dark teardrop form, called ‘black-drop effect’. 

Contact 1 would start at about 6:03 p.m. EDT (2203 GMT), i.e. starting from East of the US and Canada. And in the Western US and Canada, Contact 1 would occur at approx. 3:06 p.m. PDT. 

As part of Contact 2, Venus is going to reach onto the Sun's upper left edge as visible from Earth. Then Venus will cut across the Sun slanting from the upper left to the lower right.

Contact 3 will occur when the leading edge of Venus touches the boundary of the Sun, creating another ‘black-drop effect’. The once-in-a-lifetime occurrence will then end with Contact 4, when Venus finally moves away from the Sun.


To know the transit times location wise, one can visit the Astronomical Applications Department of the US Naval Observatory website http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/astronomical-applications/data-services/transit-us

In the days of infinite apps, VenusTransit, an app available on Android and iOS has been created just for this event. Created by Steven van Roode, it comes with a built-in timer to calculate the time Venus takes to complete the trek. It also simulates the process to tell users when the transition will begin and end based on their GPS coordinates.The app can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/M4s3Vg.

Once Venus has made its trek, all of the data from the users will be sent to central servers to be compiled and later displayed as an interactive map on Astronomers Without Borders Web site: http://tov2012.esri.com
 
The space buffs including scientists and amateurs, and photographers are gearing up for the big show. Venus would appear as a tiny black spot with a diameter of just 1/32 that of the sun. Notwithstanding the size, Venus’ journey should be visible with the unaided eye. However, it is important to take precautions to view the spectacle - don’t stare directly at the sun without eclipse-glasses, a properly filtered telescope or a strong welding visor.

The rarity of the moment has sparked a curiosity among the public, and so the entire phenomenon is going to be available live on the Web.

Here's a listing of the webcasts (courtesy MSN): 


NASA TV and NASA EDGE at Mauna Kea: The Hawaii show starts at 5:45 p.m. ET, and you should be able to watch it here: 

Video streaming by Ustream

Exploratorium: The San Francisco science center's seasoned webcast team will be webcasting from Mauna Loa, Hawaii, starting at 6 p.m. ET.

Univ. of North Dakota SEMS (in Alaska): UND's Tim Young says the road show and the chat will start cooking from Alaska at 5:45 p.m. ET. "It is one of two locations in the U.S. that will see the whole transit," he told me via email. "The other is Hawaii, and other groups are webcasting from there."

Slooh Space Camera: Slooh starts its rock-solid webcast at 5:30 p.m. ET, featuring a dozen or more video feeds from Sweden, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Arizona, New Mexico and other locales.

Astronomers Without Borders: This show will be webcast from California's Mount Wilson Observatory.

Coca-Cola Space Science Center: Columbus State University's science center in Georgia is offering pictures from the home base in Columbus, Ga., as well as from Utah, Mongolia and Australia. The webcast gets started at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Mount Lemmon SkyCenter: The University of Arizona's astronomy center starts webcasting at 5 p.m. ET.

Appalachian State University: The view from one of the Rankin Science Observatory's 11-inch telescopes will be streamed from Boone, N.C., during a public viewing event.

Planet Hunters: The exoplanet-searchers will be carrying a webcast courtesy of the GLORIA Project, with live updates from Norway, Australia and Japan starting at 6:04 p.m. ET.

Bareket Observatory: The webcast from Israel starts at 10:33 p.m. ET, which is around sun-up at the site.

Kwasan Observatory: Watch a Japanese webcast from Kyoto. 

Sky Watchers Association of North Bengal: SWAN's webcast from India gets under way at around 7:12 p.m. ET. 

European Space Agency: ESA's Venus Transit Monitor will be transmitting images from Norway and Australia. Check out ESA's Transit of Venus blog for more.

And still more... NASA's Venus Transit website links to more webcasts, as does Space.com and Sky and Telescope.

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