Venus crosses the Sun in once-in-a-lifetime event

Greg Redfern,

WASHINGTON – The past several weeks have been glorious for sky watchers as we have had a Supermoon, an annular solar eclipse and to top it all off, a partial lunar eclipse Monday morning and the historic Venus transit of the Sun on Tuesday.

June’s Full Moon is called the Strawberry Full Moon as this is prime picking time for strawberries. The Full Moon will be eclipsed 38 percent at maximum eclipse and will cover the southern portion of the Moon. This lunar eclipse follows two weeks after the annular eclipse of the Sun which occurred at New Moon.

The partial lunar eclipse is not going to be much for us to see in the WTOP listening area, as the Earth’s shadow begins to cover the Strawberry Full Moon after the Moon has set for us. But it may be worth taking a peek Monday morning at 5:30 in the West to see if any subtle shading from the Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra, is visible.

Read more about the partial eclipse of the moon here and here.

The big event in the astronomical world occurs Tuesday/Wednesday as the second planet from the Sun, Venus, crosses (transits) the face of the Sun as seen from Earth and for the first time ever, witnessed by humans from space.

Venus last transited the Sun in 2004 and will not do so again until 2117, so it is literally a once-in-a-lifetime event.

In checking the weather forecast for the D.C. area it will probably be cloudy 6:04 p.m. Tuesday when Venus aligns with the Sun’s limb. The transit will be visible in the D.C. metro region for the next two and half hours until the Sun sets at 8:30 p.m. Do not look directly at the Sun as you will suffer eye damage. Only use an approved and safe solar filter to view the Sun.

For a complete breakdown of the transit follow this link.

The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) will have telescopes available for viewing this event if the weather permits.

Regardless of the weather in the D.C. area there are a number of Internet broadcasts that will be carrying the transit live:

For background on the planet Venus check out this link and for the historical perspective of Venus transits follow this link.

Venus crossing the Sun will be witnessed by humans in space for the very first time in history as the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will have a view from low Earth orbit.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory will also be witness to the transit.

Finally, the transit of Venus is making history in that the Internet Age will bring the astronomical event to the desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet of billions of users worldwide. This technology was not available during the 2004 transit. There is a VenusTransit Phone app available for download.

So be a part of history and tune in to watch the “Goddess of Beauty and Love” make her final crossing of the Sun for the next 105 years.

See what else is up in the sky this week here.

Follow my daily blog to keep up with the latest news in astronomy and space exploration. You can email me at

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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