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The Venus Transit of 2004

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Venus Transit 2004 photo
The clouds over Australia parted to reveal Venus crossing the top of the Sun above Canberra at 4:34 p.m. local time on June 8, 2004, just in time for Darren Osborne of CSIRO to snap this picture.
Venus Transit 2004 photo
Fifteen minutes later, the Sun was setting at 4:49 p.m. as Darren Osborne of CSIRO snapped this picture of Venus transiting our star above Canberra on June 8. CSIRO is Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Click either image to enlarge the picture and see the black dot silhouette of Venus more clearly.
For the first time since 1882, Venus passed directly between Earth and the Sun on June 8, 2004.

The planet's black silhouette floated across the face of our star starting at 0520 UTC and continuing for six hours.    WHAT IS UTC?

It was visible to many thousands of people around the world from Australia, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and eastern parts of the Americas.

Transits. In 1882, the transit of Venus and a Sun-grazing comet were recorded on photographic plates.

A transit of Venus across the face of the Sun isn't a solar eclipse. The Sun is neither blotted out nor dimmed. In fact, Venus is too small. The disk of the planet covers only 0.1 percent of the Sun.

In an unprecedented occurrence, the International Space Station (ISS) crossed the face of the Sun four times during the six-hour transit of Venus in 2004.

The next opportunities to observe a Venus transit will be June 6, 2012, and December 11, 2117.

Venus. Venus is similar to Earth. Both orbit the Sun. Venus is the second planet from the Sun and Earth is third. However, unlike Earth, Venus has no oceans. Also, Venus is hot enough to melt lead, while Earth is cool enough to support unprotected human life.

Both the U.S. and Russia have observed it with orbiters and landers from time to time since 1962.

Safe Sun Viewing

Never look at the Sun without eye protection, no matter how tempting it may seem. Looking at the Sun can cause eye damage. Don't look at it.

Only look at the Sun through a safe solar filter. Examples might be #13 or #14 welder's glass or special eclipse glasses designed for solar viewing.

Do not use stacked sunglasses, metallized candy wrappers or compact disks. They are unsafe filters sometimes recommended in error.

Seen through a good filter, the Sun looks like a glowing disk, about the size of the Moon.

It's easier to see the Sun through a telescope, but never look at the Sun through an unfiltered telescope. Sunlight focused through a telescope can blind you instantly.

There are two ways to use a telescope safely:
  • Solar projection. Point the telescope at the Sun, but do not look through the telescope or its finder scope. Instead, use shadows on the ground to align the telescope with the Sun. The shadow of a telescope will look skinniest when it is pointing directly at the Sun. Once the Sun is in the field of view, an image will shoot out of the eyepiece. Hold a white card or projection screen behind the telescope scope to see a picture of the Sun. Adjust the focus of the telescope, or else the distance between the eyepiece and the screen, until the image looks crisp and round.

  • Solar filters. Cap the telescope with a suitable Sun filter that can reduce the intensity of sunlight to safe levels. Only then can you look through the eyepiece. If you're not sure which filter is safe, contact the telescope seller or manufacturer for advice.            SAFE SOLAR VIEWING SOURCE: NASA

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