MAP: The Best Spots to See Venus Crossing the Sun

 2004 Transit of Venus de:Benutzer:Klingon via Wikimedia Commons2004 Transit of Venus: de:Benutzer:Klingon via Wikimedia Commons

The transit of Venus begins today, June 5. The next one is not for 105 years, in 2117. You can check where and when today’s transit will be visible in the map below. Plus a live webcast of the transit at NASA tv.

There’s a nifty citizen science effort underway via Astronomers Without Borders if you care to download the free app and contribute the data from your own sighting. Here’s what they say about the history of the event:

Only six Venus transits have occurred since the invention of the telescope in the early 17th century. There were no observers of the first one in 1631 that we know of, and only two who we know saw the transit in 1639. In the 18th century, Sir Edmond Halley described a method for measuring the distance from the Earth to the Sun through observations of Venus transits from widely separated sites. The same had been attempted with transits of Mercury but Venus transits allow for much more precise measurements.Halley’s publication led to expeditions sent around the world by many nations to view the pair of Venus transits later in the 17th century. The same took place with the 19th century pair of Venus transits. No Venus transits occurred in the 20th century. While 20th century methods eventually supplanted the Venus transit method in measuring distances in the solar system, the history of the event is an important link to our past. 

Fred Espenak, NASAFred Espenak, NASA

 As for what scientists are looking to learn from the 2012 transit, LiveScience notes a few interesting research questions, including:

  • Those bizarre blue stripes in Venus’ upper clouds called “blue absorbers” or “UV absorbers” that absorb nearly half the total solar energy hitting the planet, keeping it superhot with surface temperatures greater than 860° F (460° C). What are they made of? Maybe elemental sulfur?
  • What’s making the Venusian lightning, since we don’t think there’s any rainfall there?
  • What’s behind Venus’ super-rotating atmosphere driven by storms circling the planet at speeds greater than 220 mph (360 kph), 60 times faster than the planet itself rotates.
  • Most of all, what happened to Venus’ oceans, were they destroyed by a runaway greenhouse effect? If so, how long did it take?

 

Venus in true color: NASA/Ricardo NunesVenus in true color: NASA/Ricardo Nunes

 

The video below summarizes our modern understanding of the transit, including a brief history of its science and what we hope to learn today.

 


 ScienceCasts: The 2012 Transit of Venus from Science@NASA on Vimeo.

 

The next video recreates a high-tech presentation of the transit from 1769. The tools have changed but not the fascination.

 


Artificial Transit of Venus Model from Transit of Venus on Vimeo.

 

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.