The “nearly-foolproof” guide to viewing the Transit of Venus

venus_transit_2012_nasaJune 5 will be the last of two recent opportunities (the last was 2004) to see the disc of Venus pass across the face of the Sun as seen from Earth.

Before this month’s passage and the 2004 event, we last saw such a transit in 1884.

The next transit of Venus after Tuesdays? It’ll be 2117…105 years from now.

In case you’d like to sit back and have a guided tour of the transit, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada centres across Canada are hosting viewing sessions in major cities: Here’re the details.

However, if you’d like to “do it yourself”…

venus_transit_2012_nasa_closeupChasing the solar event of a lifetime

So how to see this once-in-a-lifetime event…In addition to timing and safety (which we’ll cover in spades below) if you’re really intent on seeing this transit, you should also be aware of local and surrounding weather in the days and hours before. If the weather where you are isn’t relatively clear, you will also have to be willing to drive potentially long distances at the drop of a hat.

Let’s take a look at each of the four factors above for a nearly-foolproof plan for viewing the 2012 transit of Venus:

Timing

The recent partial solar eclipse visible from much of Canada reminded me just how hard it is to catch these solar events that are only visible for the beginning or tail-end and only right at sunset: While we got a wonderful view for about 5 minutes after setting up (late!) we missed the opportunity to get good photographs (as you can see from the aesthetically beautiful “near-miss” as the sun sets below the trees in this telescope eyepiece-projection image below.)

solar_eclipse_2012_projectionWhen getting ready to observe this event, treat it like it’s a non-refundable airline trip.

Don’t be late!

If possible, arrive at your viewing location AT LEAST an hour before the transit begins in your neck of the woods – longer if you have complicated telescope and/or camera gear to set-up.

Here’re exact times for major cities (your location may vary from these cities by a few minutes, so look early to be sure!)

June 5 transit begins at the following local times:

venus_transit_mapSt John’s, NL – 7:33 pm

Halifax, NS – 7:03 pm

Toronto – 6:04 pm

Winnipeg – 5:05 pm

Calgary – 4:05 pm

Vancouver – 3:06 pm

Safety

Here are the ways you can safely look at the 2012 Transit of Venus on June 5 (NEVER look directly into the sun without a proper solar filter or #14 welders’ glass!!):

Keeping tabs on the weather

Remember, this is a solar event in the daytime and – as such – you do not need perfectly clear skies. However…

If it’s not going to be mostly clear where you plan to view according to the weather forecast a few days-out, it’s time to start looking at alternative viewing locations.

Astronomers, start your engines!

Whether this is another town over or another time zone over, get together a plan for how to get there in plenty of time and where else to go if your alternative location looks like it too will be cloudy:

If this happens, get ready to head to your #3 location. If the forecast for #3 is grim, plan to head to location #4, and so-on.

Shooting the transit

This can be done through a camera zoom lens with a glass or Mylar solar filter or #14 welder’s glass in front of it, or through a telescope with camera adapter and T-ring for an SLR camera and one of the above filters.

Got any images of the transit – especially with people in the shot? Share them below or on our Facebook page – We’d love to see them!

Meanwhile, happy (safely-protected) Venus transit-gazing!

More Transit of Venus tips and coverage

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