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Video: Venus in Transit 2012 – How to Watch

You'll probably be dead the next time this happens, so let us tell you how to catch the celestial event Tuesday evening – and exactly what to expect.

Please also see Venus 2012: Don't Miss This Twice-in-a-Lifetime Experience.

 

A little after 3 p.m. Tuesday, area residents will have an opportunity to witness one of the rarest predictable celestial events: the 2012 transit of Venus.

Often referred to as the “Evening Star” or “Morning Star,” Venus is the brightest natural object in our sky after the Sun and the Moon. As the second planet from the Sun, it's closer to the Sun than the Earth is. 

A transit of Venus occurs when Venus passes between us and the Sun in such a way that we can see Venus's silhouette backlit by the Sun's brilliant light. It last happened in 2004, but it won't happen again until 2117.

Unless you plan to shatter some human longevity records, this is probably your last chance.

Were Venus either large enough or close enough to block out the Sun's light as it passed, we would call this event an eclipse, as we do when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. Venus, however, is a little bit smaller than the Earth and about 27 million miles away.

When its tiny silhouette is viewed against the Sun, which lies another 66 million miles beyond, it can offer viewers a dramatic sense of the solar system's vast scale.

Assuming sufficiently clear skies, the transit will be visible starting at about 3:04 p.m. Tuesday and will remain so until the sun sets. Those in the central and western U.S. will be able to enjoy it longer, while viewers in Alaska, Japan, and large sections of Australia, China, and Russia will be able to see it in its entirety. By the time the Sun rises on the East Coast on Wednesday, Venus will have completed the transit.

How to watch

Never look directly at the sun with your naked eyes. You can damage your eyes. Likewise, viewing the sun with either binoculars or a telescope can direct the sun's magnified rays directly into your eyeball and cause serious injury―think about what happens to ants under a magnifying glass.

Sunglasses do not provide sufficient protection. If you know someone who works in plumbing or construction, ask them if they have any #14 welder's glass. You can look directly at the sun through this material without risking injury.

If you have a tripod or a partner and a pair of steady hands, you can use binoculars to project an image of the Sun onto a white piece of paper. Remember, don't look through your binoculars at the sun!

Though it's not quite the same as viewing the phenomenon in person, there are several places to watch the transit of Venus online:

Lastly, there's Don Pettit, an astronaut currently aboard the International Space Station. Pettit's not doing a video feed, but he will become the first person to ever photograph a transit of Venus from outer space

An alternative view

That's the science. Here's an a view of the event from an astrologer.

“The sun represents our ego and sense of self and Venus represents what we want,” said astrologer and author Donna Stellhorn. “When Venus crosses in front of the sun, what we want becomes more important than anything else. So our focus will be on what we want and it's up to us to make it happen.”

While some may think like this daily, this is an opportunity to really be clear on what you desire in life, she added.

Stellhorn says that Venus, the “planet of love and money” has been retrograde since May 15 and will continue to be so through June 27. 

“Venus represents our desires, what we really want especially in the area of physical comfort, possessions and in matters of the heart. The other planets rule things like thinking, action, learning and expertise but Venus is the reason we feel motivated to get things done. Venus embodies our wishes and inspires us to take action to fulfill those desires,” Stellhorn says.

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