Venus Transit 2012: When & How to See This Once-in-a-Lifetime Cosmic Event (VIDEO)

venus transitYou don't have to be an astronomy buff to be psyched for the rare astro event going down later today. Venus will pass directly between the earth and the sun, as she did back in June 2004, but tonight's spectacle will be the last transit of Venus to occur in our lifetimes. Unless we achieve crazy longevity via nanotechnology in the next few years, we probably won't be around to see the next Venus transit, which won't occur until December 2117. So better catch it tonight!

Here, all your need-to-knows for better understanding and viewing the exciting celestial event ... 

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What we'll be able to see: Venus as a small dot gliding slowly across the face of the sun. 

The historical significance: Astronomers used to use the transit as a way to measure the size of the solar system. According to transitofvenus.org, "The view is like a front row seat to the transit method, by which we now find planets around distant stars."

When to view it: Here's a sampling of local viewing times: 12:10 p.m. in Honolulu, 3:06 p.m. in Los Angeles (Pacific time), 5:06 p.m. in Mexico City (Central time), 6:04 p.m. in New York (Eastern time). And tomorrow, Wed., June 6, at 5:37 a.m. London, 6:10 a.m. Beijing, 6:38 a.m. Cairo, 7:10 a.m. Tokyo, 8:16 a.m. Sydney, 10:15 a.m. Auckland.

How to view it: You can head outside at the designated time and look to the west. However, all the pros say it's incredibly important that we do not look directly at the sun with the naked eye. Instead, you can use eclipse shades or solar shades (similar to sunglasses, but use a special filter that makes viewing safe) or a DIY pinhole projector. Or, if you're stuck inside or it's cloudy out, you can watch it on the web. The Slooh Space Camera will offer a webcast beginning 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. NASA TV will offer a webcast from Hawaii that begins at around 5:45 p.m. ET, which you can watch here:


Video streaming by Ustream

And you can check out this interesting, straightforward video from NASA for more basic details and background on the transit ... 

 

Will you be checking out the Venus transit later today?

 

Image via ScienceAtNASA/YouTube

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