It’s the final opportunity of the century to witness the rare astronomical reunion of the sun, Venus and Earth. On Tuesday, June 5 or 6, 2012, depending on your location, Venus will make its presence in the solar system visible from Earth’s day side. Using special eye safety precautions, viewers may see Venus as a small dot slowly drifting across the golden disk of the sun.
Transits of Venus are very rare, separated by more than a hundred years. There have been 53 transits since 2000 B.C., but only six have been witnessed since the invention of the telescope in 1608. These rare events occur in pairs, with the first transit occurring June 8, 2004. The next opportunity won’t be until Dec. 10 and 11, 2117.
Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree, two young astronomers from England, recorded the first observation of a transit in 1639. In 1769, survey crews, including Captain James Cook, gathered transit data from various locations around the world that were later used to calculate the distance between Earth and the sun, thereby establishing the solar system’s scale.
CONTINUED at Science Daily.