Space just won’t stop being awesome


A rare chance for earthlings to witness Venus dashing in front of the sun will start around 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Bay Area. It will last about five hours as the planet creeps between the Earth and the sun.

Mark your calendars, because your next chance to see it won’t be for another 105 years.

Just like last month’s annular eclipse, those who want to watch can’t just look at the sun. Not even for rad happenings in outer space. Your high school science teacher was right: You can go blind that way.

You need to either wear special, protective solar glasses or use a telescope with a solar filter. If finding special glasses or telescopes is too hard, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is providing real time data of the event.

This rare alignment is called the transit of Venus and it happens in pairs eight years apart. This second recent appearance means another 100+ years before another transit occurs.

The last time a transit took place June 2004, the finicky planet skipped the West Coast of the U.S. This time, it will be visible nationwide.

Venus will appear as a very small shadow against the sun in the sky, Laurance Doyle, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View told the Merc. That’s equivalent to a gnat flying in front of a lightbulb.

The first record of this event was by Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree, both English astronomers, in 1639.

The second was by Captain James Cook, a British explorer who sailed to Tahiti in 1768 to construct an observatory to witness the transit again.

By combining the data, scientists were able to measure the Earth’s distance from the sun for the first time.

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