Transit of Venus

So what’s all the fuss about the Transit of Venus? NASA has created several videos on the history and science of the Transit to answer your questions.


Above: A brief video summary of this celestial event The 2012 Transit of Venus.

For a more in-depth look:

Transit of Venus Part 1
Transit of Venus Part 2

The Transit begins shortly after 5 pm CDT on Tuesday here in Texas. If you’d like to take a look, you have several choices. Please remember, DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN without appropriate protection for your eyes or a solar viewing device. Astronomy clubs around the state will have viewing parties for the public.

In Austin, head for the Robert Lee Moore Hall on the UT campus.

In Dallas, try the Forest Park Branch Library parking lot.

In Houston, the Brockman Hall of Physics on Rice University Campus is your destination.

In San Antonio, head for the University of Texas San Antonio Science Building.

For other sites in Texas do a search for Texas in state box.

If you don’t want to go out in the heat, you can watch the Transit of Venus live on the NASA Edge Channel from Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii

NASA has posted a schedule for Nasa Edge TV coverage of the Transit. The program begins around 4:45 pm CDT.

Heliograph of the Transit of Venus taken by a Naval Observatory team in 1882 – location unknown.

Heliograph of the Transit of Venus taken by a Naval Observatory team in 1882 – location unknown.

In 1882, the US Naval Observatory sent out eight expeditions across the globe to observe the Transit of Venus. One team was sent to San Antonio where they were joined by a group of Belgian astronomers. They set up camp on the Quadrangle of Fort Sam Houston.

“The Americans used a heliostat, a moving mirror to feed the Sun’s light into a lens of forty-feet focal length, and then to photographic plates preceded by a ruled grid of fine lines and a plumb bob of which the line was to mark the true vertical.” (Evans and Olson p. 450). Clouds obscured the beginning of the Transit but cleared away in time for the two groups to make many observations. Just as today, there were amateur astronomers on hand to give the public a view of the event.

For more information about the 1882 Transit of Venus in Texas see “Early Astronomy in Texas” by David S. Evans and Donald W. Olson in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly.

So take some time to watch the Transit of Venus on Tuesday. Someday, you can tell the grandkids that you did.