Venus in Transit: Some Ways to Watch it Online From Cloudy Somerville

The weather in Somerville is not cooperating, so here are some ways to watch today's rare celestial event online so you can participate vicariously.

The transit of Venus is a rare celestial event that has captured the imaginations of scientists for generations. It's an event that sent Captain James Cook around the world in 1769 to make observations from Tahiti. It's an event that won't happen again until 2117, and it's happening today, and we're in Somerville, and it's cloudy.

There's no reason to let a few Somerville clouds stop you from enjoying this special astronomical occasion. Below are some ways to watch the transit of Venus online from locations around the world, and below that is some more information about the whole thing.

Watch the Transit of Venus Online

Livescience.com has a great guide to webcasts of the event, which includes webcasts from observatories, agencies and univiersities from around the world. Here are some higlights:

More Information About The Transit of Venus

A little after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, residents of our area will have an opportunity to witness one of the rarest predictable celestial events: a 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 for us starting at about 6:04 p.m. on 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.

If You're Not in Somerville and Can Watch in Person

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!


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