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06/04/2012

Venus will transit the Sun this Evening!

Later this evening, people all across North America will have a chance to see Venus pass in front of the Sun for the second and final time this century. Our sister planet previously crossed the solar disk eight years ago, in June 2004, but it won’t do so again until December 2117.

This is what it looked like on June 8, 2004.  

Venus-transit-photography-tips-2

Here are some great photos of the 2004 transit.

This time around, the transit will appear further north across the face of the sun.

Venus-transit-2012-2004

Venus spans about 3 percent of the Sun’s apparent diameter, so the planet will appear as an obvious but small black spot to naked eyes.

For this area, the show will start at around 6:10 pm edt and will run through sunset at about 9 pm.  This means you need to find an observing spot with a clear view to the west and a flat, unobstructed horizon toward the west-northwest where the Sun will set.   

Here is a good little (4 minute) video blog of the event produced by NASA...

 

Of course safety is always a concern when it comes to viewing solar celestial events. This one is no different and if you plan watching, you'll need to have the proper equipment or techniques to do it without potentially causing serious harm to your eyes.  

Even without optical aid, sunlight can burn your retina in seconds; looking through binoculars or a telescope can blind you almost instantly. For a naked-eye view, use a #12 or #14 welder’s glass or “eclipse glasses” specifically designed for viewing the Sun. Both block dangerous ultraviolet and infrared radiation as well as visible light.

Here's a "how to" guide for safe viewing of the transit.

As always, these type of events are at the mercy of our weather.  Cloud cover will be key to successful viewing.  Recently , cloud cover prevented much of our area from viewing the partial annular eclipse during the evening of May 20th.  So how about this time?

You may have noticed that cumulus clouds have been developing this afternoon.  The visible satellite is showing a rather dense cumulus field developing across our northeastern counties.

Vis sat

I think this trend will continue and we might even see a few isolated showers developing over that area by late this afternoon and into early this evening.

AdvanceTrak is picking up on this idea and showing a partly cloudy sky by 7 pm for much of our area.  You will notice, however, that the sky will be mostly clear to our west with the bulk of the clouds to the east and north.  

At1

Since we will again be observing an evening event, looking westward toward sunset will actually increase our chance of seeing the transit, or at least a part of it.  

If you'd like to view the event online you can go to NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Happy Viewing! 

WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

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