An acclaimed new book racing with explorers and scientists to the ends of the earth in 1769 as they chase the planet Venus and unlock great secrets behind the sky. THE DAY THE WORLD DISCOVERED THE SUN tells a "truly excellent" (New Scientist) "scientific adventure tale" (Kirkus) that "vividly recreates the torturous explorations and enthralling discovery of three peripatetic and insatiably curious explorers.” (Publishers Weekly)
At approximately 6 p.m. eastern (U.S./Canada) time on June 5*, the planet Venus will spend some six hours crawling like a june bug across the face of the sun. For perspective, it’ll look a little like a quarter slowly sliding across the dinner plate-sized sun.
But no description or even photographs can compare to seeing it in person. I highly recommend making the effort to check out the only remaining Venus transit that will be visible in our lifetimes. (The next one is in 2117!)
To see it for yourself, check your local newspaper’s event listings for regional astronomy clubs or schools that will be setting up telescopes outfitted to observe the transit.
This last point is especially important because the transit will be best viewed through a telescope. But looking at the sun through a telescope without a proper solar filter on it can permanently damage the eyes or even cause blindness. Two astronomy blogs have collected some good posts about safely viewing the transit.
Some Dutch astronomers have even written their own iPhone/Android phone Transit of Venus app that details the exact path of this year’s transit across the sun as seen from your location. It also will be collecting amateur astronomers’ Venus transit observations from around the world.
234 years ago, without GPS, smartphone apps (or, gasp, even email!), a dedicated group of scientists and explorers risked their lives to perform these same observations.
And that’s, of course, a page-turner for another time.
* The transit begins late in the day U.S. time on June 5. This means that for much of the world, including Australia, Europe and Africa (see NASA’s transit map for more), the Venus transit will begin on the morning of June 6.