June 5, 2012 at 11:57 AM

The Transit of Venus: You Can Learn A Lot From a Dot

"Astronomical phenomenon offers rare glimpse into the cosmos"

By Todd Eric Lovato

Fox in a Forest

Todd Eric Lovato is a Santa Fe native, the editor of SantaFe.com and an overfed, long-haired leaping gnome.

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If your eyeballs are still intact after last month’s annular solar eclipse, then today offers a new opportunity to marvel at the wonder of the cosmos – using all the precautionary viewing techniques, naturally. Beginning just after 4 p.m. MDT, the planet Venus will circle in front of the sun, creating what will appear as a small blemish on the surface of the solar disk.

This astronomical event, which is known as the Transit of Venus, is an extremely rare event – even rarer than the return of Haley’s Comet. The last transit took place in 2004 but the next Transit of Venus after today will not occur again until the year 2117, according to reports.

This event offers a rare firsthand glimpse at Venus, the second planet from the sun, which takes its name from Roman goddess of love and beauty. Historically, the discovery of this transit event offered astronomers significant revelations on the Earth’s place in the solar system.

According to NASA, “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.”

The transit will be visible to the naked eye, however, viewing this phenomena should be treated with the same precautions as when viewing a solar eclipse. Astronomers warn to never look directly at the sun with the naked eye or through telescopes, binoculars, cameras and cell phones. 

“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,” advise NASA officials. 

Here’s are some viewing suggestions from NASA:

Also, try to get your hands on some special eclipse glasses. Know where to find a pair of glasses here in town? Post any suggestions on good places to buy these in the comments below.

Cerrillos Hills State Park is offering a special Transit of Venus viewing event from 3 to 6 p.m., today. According to its website, they have all the materials to safely view this rare event.

Of course, all of this is weather permitting, so if the clouds are blocking our views, NASA is offering a live feed, which you can view right here on SantaFe.com, below.


Live broadcasting by Ustream

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