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Venus cross in front of solar disk on June 5

Andrew Yee, astronomer
May 19, 2012 — On June 5th, Venus makes a very rare crossing in front of the disk of the Sun.

Venus transit since invention of telescope
Venus transit since invention of telescope

On June 5th, Venus makes a very rare crossing in front of the disk of the Sun. This is called a planetary transit, and can only happen on the two planets Mercury and Venus since they orbit the Sun closer than Earth.

Due to the tilt of the orbits of these planets, rarely would Mercury and Venus travel directly across the Sun. Transit of Venus is particularly rare, and always appears in a pair with eight years in between. Then there is a huge wait of either 105.5 or 121.5 years before the next pair of Venus transit arrives.

The event on June 5th is the second half of the current pair of Venus transit. The last Venus transit was in 2004 when the planet crossed the lower portion of the solar disk. 

You should make a serious effort to try and see this Venus transit. The next one is more than a century away and is only visible along the coast of BC.

For the June 5th transit, Venus cross the upper portion of the solar disk. There are four key phases of the transit. It would take Venus 6 hr. 40. min. to complete the crossing. The transit ends when the limb of Venus completely detaches from the upper right edge of the Sun.

Without using any optical equipment, our eyes would just be able to see Venus as a tiny black dot on the solar disk when you view through certified solar viewing filters.

The transit is visible from everywhere in Canada, but in progress at sunset for many areas. Places to the left of the gray and yellow lines can see different fractions of the transit when the Sun is setting. Only places above the red line can see the entire event. 

Venus transit visible throughout Canada
Venus transit visible throughout Canada

It is extremely dangerous to view the Sun without eye protection. Even when the Sun is very close to the horizon or when there is substantial cloud cover to dim the brightness of the Sun, it is not safe to view the transit through sunglasses or darkened glasses. 

The following are three inexpensive, simple and safe methods for observing the transit Venus:  

Method 1: Pinhole Projection   

Take a piece of cardboard and punch a tiny hole in the middle with a thumbnail or a pin.
The cardboard becomes a pinhole projector. Use this cardboard pinhole projector to project an image of the eclipsed Sun on another cardboard or flat surface behind it. Remember, do not look through the pinhole projector!   
Method 2: Special Solar Eclipse Viewing Glasses   

Use a specially made certified solar eclipse viewing glasses. When you get the glasses, make sure that there is no major scratch or a split in the special film on the glasses.
This particular solar eclipse viewing glasses is available for order from Kendrick Astro Instruments in Toronto.

Method 3: Venus transit public observing event

Check your local astronomy club, regional science center or local universities and colleges to see if there might be a public viewing event. For example, the University of Toronto will host a public viewing event at its Varsity Stadium in downtown Toronto. It would be fun to join a large party to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event. 

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