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Space Science

The Venus Transit 2004 199

Walkiry writes "In just 47 days our friendly neighbour planet Venus will be passing right in between Earth and good ol' Sun, giving us the chance to see a small black spot going accross the disk (last one was in 1882). This is called the Venus Transit. The interesting thing is that there is a project asking for volunteers to perform their own measurements of the phenomena and submit their own results, in what will be the first accurate and public measurement of an extraterrestrial distance. Do you have a spare telescope and some free time on June 8th?"
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The Venus Transit 2004

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  • by Michael Crutcher ( 631990 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:33PM (#8962392)
    Do you have a spare telescope and some free time on June 8th?

    Of course we do. What did you think we would be doing, going on dates with women?

  • by Rikus ( 765448 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:34PM (#8962396)
    Okay, everybody stare directly at the Sun.
  • by smoondog ( 85133 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:34PM (#8962399)
    Ahhh, My EYES! The goggles do nothing! (Damn you /.)!
  • "giving us the chance to see a small black spot going accross the disk"
  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by wviperw ( 706068 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:35PM (#8962404) Homepage Journal
    ...accurate and public measurement of an extraterrestrial distance.

    Maybe it's just me, but somehow those two words don't seem to quite go together.
    • Do you have any idea how much equipment and expertise is out there? "Amateur" often is a euphemism for "fanatic".
    • get to know your local amature astronomers.
      Some of their equipment can be darn impressive.

      BTW, they hate if you go to leave at 2AM. and your car lights turn on when you start your car.

      Stupid daytime running lights.
      • On this planet you are expected to turn on your car lights, manually or otherwise, if you leave at 2am. This may be related to a little known fact that it is usually pitch dark at night.

        The only exception of this rule would be during a massive solar flare. Like if you would care then...

        • Remember, this is at an astronomy event - generally hell and gone away from light pollution sources.

          That means that for low speeds, your PARKING lights are sufficient to navigate you away from the immediate area of the event.

          Daytime running lights will end up blinding everyone, and they will be justifiably annoyed. They stick around until everyone's done so they don't ruin each other's nightvision.
    • ...accurate and public measurement of an extraterrestrial distance.

      I doubt that the public project related to the 2004 transit is intended to obtain more accurate measurements than already exist, for the distances and timings associated with Venus.

      For all of the inner planets, even the best professional optical telescope measurements are already so much less accurate than modern non-optical measurements, such as radar-ranging and spacecraft measurements, that optical data (except for the outer planets)
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:41PM (#8962440)
    What equipment and observing method are you going to use? Will you project an image of the Sun on a screen? Will you use a camera? Is it already available or will you have to build (buy) it?

    I plan on buying a 12" Celestron and doing my observations *with my naked eye*, like a MAN! What kind of wuss would use a screen or a camera? Astronomers seem to have lost the direct feel of things these days, with all them modern equipments...
  • sounds like the name of a public transportation company...
    • Venus transit sounds like a call girl agency.

      Have goddes of love, will travel.
    • I figure they were the ones who almost run over L. Ron Hubbard when he was on Venus.

      I notice that we all believe that Venus has a methane atmosphere and is unlivable. I almost got run down by a freight locomotive the other day -- didn't look very uncivilized to me. I'm allergic to freight locomotives, they're always running into you. (Real[evil]Audio) []

      If Elron is ever back there, I hope they do better next time.

    • Yeah, there's even a song about it: Charlie and the VTA.
  • by ALLXSTHINGS ( 741497 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:42PM (#8962447)
    Apaprently, the next Venus transit after this one will be in 2012, but the next two after that won't be until 2117 and 2125. Looks like a once in a lifetime deal. (source: s0412.html)
  • Venus Atmosphere (Score:5, Informative)

    by Via_Patrino ( 702161 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:47PM (#8962476)
    It was in a situation like that that Venus athmosphere (its clounds) was discovered, when Venus was against the sun an astromer saw a fog over the planet. A lot of light passed trough where previously was thoug to be solid.
  • Wikipedia Info (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bobdabishop307 ( 751992 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:47PM (#8962477) Homepage
    This is what i found in Wikipedia on Venus Transits:

    "Transits of Venus, when the planet crosses directly between the Earth and the Sun' visible disc, are important astronomical events. The first such transit was observed on December 4, 1639 by Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree. A transit in 1761 observed by Mikhail Lomonosov provided the first evidence that Venus had an atmosphere, and the 19th century observations of parallax during its transits allowed the distance between the Earth and Sun to be accurately calculated for the first time. The previous set of transits of Venus occurred within the interval of 1874 - 1882, and the next set of transits will occur in the period of 2004 - 2012."
  • as usual (Score:2, Informative)

    can't see it from north america!

    Most astronomical events seem to not be visible from or get clouded out in my area.
  • equipment (Score:5, Informative)

    by dspeyer ( 531333 ) <dspeyer@wa[ ] ['m.u' in gap]> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:49PM (#8962486) Homepage Journal
    A telescope alone isn't enough. Looking at the sun through a telescope is almost as safe as gouging out your eyes with a knife. It is possible to get a filter adaquate for sun-viewing, but make sure it's explicitely designed for your size telescope.

    What's proabaly better is a projection scope. A prpoer one is very expensive, but you can just hold any convex lense or piece of shirt cardboard with a really tiny hole in it above a piece of white paper. You'll need very good resolution to see this though, so you should probably calculate that ahead of time.

    • by Latent Heat ( 558884 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @09:51PM (#8962733)
      There are two kinds of telescope sun filters. An objective filter fits over the front end of the telescope. It filters light out before the light enters the telescopy. It is more expensive but the only safe kind.

      The other kind of sun filter fits over your eyepiece or inside your eyepiece. I once had a 2.4 inch refracting telescope that came with this piece of welder's glass that fit over the eyepiece. I never used it because I was warned not to.

      The advantage of the objective sun filter (the ones I have seen advertised are aluminized mylar) is that 1) it blocks out intense sunlight before it even gets to your telescope, and 2) it is exposed to no more than normal sun intensity because it hasn't been concentrated by the telescope.

      The wee bit of welder's glass at the telescope eyepiece is unsafe because it is getting the full focus of sunlight from the telescope and the thing and crack from the heat and then your eyeball is in peril.

      The other safe method is projection through the telescope on to a piece of paper. Safe for one's eyes -- I ruined my beginner's refractor doing that because the heat cooked a cheap plastic element in the one eyepiece it came with.

  • by ChiralSoftware ( 743411 ) <> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @09:06PM (#8962554) Homepage
    If you would like to read a book that is a brilliant mix of great writing, science, philosophy, conspiracies and the Transit of Venus, as witnessed in Africa, I highly recommend "Mason & Dixon" by Thomas Pynchon. It does take a while to get through it and you need to have Google and a dictionary handy to understand some of the more obscure references in it, but it is both funny and sad and very worth reading. Basically, Mason and Dixon, the two cartographers behind the Mason Dixon Line, are dispatched to various places in the world to make various observations, and the most interesting is their assignment to South Africa to observe the Transit.

    Create a WAP server []

  • by whatamidoing ( 768296 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @09:13PM (#8962575)
    you should go here []
  • by Viadd ( 173388 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @09:18PM (#8962600)
    According to that website, this will be visible in parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. It is pretty light on detail, but according to this site [] parts of it will be visible from Australia and the eastern parts of North and South America.
  • W00t !!!

    June 8th is my 21st birthday! Finally, a good excuse to have a birthday completely alone, without that damned interference from friends or family. "Sorry, can't have dinner with you, I'll be "making observations" until sunset!"
  • Make the trek. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Benmore Peak Observatory ( in New Zealand's South Island will be hosting a bunch of visitors for this one. Not only is the view of Venus going to be good, so is the view of the lakes and snow-clad mountain peaks around it. I was there in 2000 and it's just absolutely outstanding (and they always have lots of icy cold beer)! Thoroughly recommended.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 24, 2004 @09:27PM (#8962634)
    Despite warnings every year people get blinded because they wanted to see a partial eclipse or some other solar event directly.
    Use a telescope or binoculars and project the image onto a piece of white cardboard or paper.
    Even just a few seconds can ruin your eyesight so be careful. It's no joke.
    • "Despite warnings every year people get blinded because they wanted to see a partial eclipse or some other solar event directly.
      Use a telescope or binoculars and project the image onto a piece of white cardboard or paper."

      Man I got in trouble in high school over something like this once. We had a solar eclipse. It's a rare event! Unfortunately my English teacher has seen 5 or 6 of them in her ancient life time. So she just couldn't understand why we were all running to the window. So after she barked
  • I'm personally looking forward to being gouged for price-hiked solar filters, just like I was gouged for a price-hiked barlow lens during the last close encounter with Mars. :o)

    Does anyone have more specific info on how long it'll take for the full transit? Are we talking just a few hours, like an eclipse?
  • I see blind people (Score:3, Interesting)

    by carcosa30 ( 235579 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @09:32PM (#8962662)
    Why is it this reminds me of "Day of the Triffids?"

    There's a little black spot on the sun today...
  • Yeah, so (Score:2, Funny)

    by value_added ( 719364 )
    I saw it the last time round. Wasn't much to speak of.
  • Projecting with cups (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bushcat ( 615449 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @09:58PM (#8962758)
    I've had good luck projecting solar images using paper cups, though I don't know how big the image would have to be to see Venus in this instance.

    Find the biggest paper cup or popcorn bucket possible, tape thin paper over the top and poke a hole in the base. Point at sun, view image on paper. It's easy enough to teach the kids in the neighborhood when the parents wonder what the strange guy with the paper cup is doing.

    If the image isn't large enough, simply pull the paper off and project in the usual way. The paper cup is easy enough for kids to hold. For some reason, flat sheets turn into crumpled useless things when exposed to kids.

  • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @10:28PM (#8962887) Homepage
    "There will be no other [transit of Venus] till the twenty-first century of our era has dawned upon the earth, and the June flowers are blooming in 2004.

    What will be the state of science when the next transit season arrives God only knows."

    1882 - William Harkness, USNO

    (Dunno about God, but I used Google to find that quote.)
    • Truly it was a most exquisite and memorable sight. The sun was already beginning to put on the ruddy hues of sunset, and there, far in on its face, was the sharp, round, black disc of Venus. It was then easy to sympathise with the supreme joy of Horrocks when, in 1639, he for the first time witnessed this spectacle. The intrinsic beauty of the phenomenon, its rarity, the fulfilment of the prediction, the noble problem which the transit of Venus enables us to solve, are all present to our thoughts when we lo
    • "What will be the state of science ..."

      Hey Buddy! I own the patent on the "state of science!" I'm going to sue your family and your family's family for abusing my patent!. You'll be hearing from my lawyer.

  • "There's a little black spot in the sun today..."

  • do not look directly at the sun with your remaining eye!
  • Celestia Video (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eingram ( 633624 ) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @12:31AM (#8963324)
    I made a quick video using Celestia of the Venus transit. It requires Divx and it's about 330KB in size and runs for 18 seconds.

    Here is the link []. Ugh, be gentle. :)

    This also just gave me an idea. Being in North America, I might use Celestia [] to watch this happen in real time on June 8!
  • "Friendly?" (Score:3, Funny)

    by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:29AM (#8963496)
    "In just 47 days our friendly neighbour planet Venus"

    Why "friendly?" Because they don't try to invade us as often as Mars does?
  • Don't forget the Lunar eclipse [] on 4th of May!

    Not quite as special but definitly more dramatic!
  • by chongo ( 113839 ) * on Sunday April 25, 2004 @04:32AM (#8963902) Homepage Journal
    I have made the viewing special astronomical events a priority. As a pre-condition of employment I ask my prospective employer to ensure that I have will get time off travel and view:
    1. Total Solar Eclipses
    2. Planetary Transits
    3. Naked-eye visible Supernovas

    Not only do I get to see amazing astronomical events, while I am there I travel around and see wonderful and interesting parts of our own planet!

    To pay for my vacations to these selected events, I have established travel investment funds (setup many years in advance) for:

    I also keep an emergency fund that allows me go anywhere in the world at a moments notice to see a Supernova bright enough seen with the naked eye. I had such a fund in place which allowed me to rush from California to Australia some 21 hours after the discovery of 1987A [] (24 Feb 1987).

    Maybe next naked eye supernova viewable in my hemisphere. But if not, I have another supernova fund ready ...

    I first learned about the Transit of Venus [], in the early summer of 1970, during a Morrison Planetarium [] program of the California Academy of Science []. At the age of 9 I decided that I wanted to see next transit.

    I have waiting patiently for 34 years to make my transit observations []. It is now only a few dozen days away!!!

    • Wow, that's a neat plan!

      I agree about coordinating travel with astronomical events. I went to Venezuela for the eclipse of 1998 (did you see that one?) and had a blast traveling around the country, seeing things such as Angel Falls and a Llanos safari.

      You can find great stuff to do in nearly any country on earth.

      Currently I live in Ecuador and won't be able to get to Europe for this. :( Might have to aim for Easter Island in 2010.

      • OTOH, I can't immagine how hard or expensive it will be to get there. LanChile is the only airline that flies to the place, only has two flights a week to Santiago and to Tahiti, and they cost like $800. Unless they plan special runs (and I bet they will), you'll probably want to book a year in advance!
    • Damn! And I thought *I* was a major astro-geek. I'm going to be on the island of Mauritius for the transit. I reserved my spot with one of the eclipse tour companies almost two years ago. This is my first astronomical "expedition" abroad. I will try to capture the transit in digital video straight to hard disk. I've done it for Mars and Saturn before, it works really good for that.
  • The Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG), which operates 6 solar telescopes around the world designed to obtain continuous observations of the Sun, will provide "live" coverage of the Transit. See []

    The GONG is used to watch the Sun oscillate, or "ring," which provides mighty useful data on the solar interior. Helioseismology, in other words. See [] for details.

    Credit Line: The GONG is operated by the National Solar Observatory which is operated by the

  • ... in what will be the first accurate and public measurement of an extraterrestrial distance.

    I guess Aristarchus [] and all those other old greeks doen't count :-(

    Considering they calculated the diameter of the earth, the distance to the moon and sun, and the reason for total solar eclipses (the sun and moon having the same apparent diameter, but the sun being much larger and further away), I think that they should count.

    They also knew the world was round. Columbus didn't sail to prove the world was round

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