It’s been a good year for sky-watching. Last month the world saw an incredible and rare annular eclipse. Tonight, stargazers will be able to witness the Venus Transit, a once-in-a-lifetime event.
According to Wired, a planetary transit occurs when a planet passes directly between the sun and the earth. It can only occur with two planets, Mercury and Venus, since they are the only two planets that orbit the sun closer than earth. A Mercury Transit occurs every 13 to 14 years. The Transit of Venus, however, is much more rare. The Earth, the Sun, and Venus won’t be aligned this perfectly for another 105 years.
So unless you plan on being alive in the year 2117 you should probably take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Unfortunately, only the extreme western part of the United States will get to see the entire Venus Transit. The Science Daily reports that the spectacular event will be able to be seen from Hawaii and Alaska. New Zealand, Japan, Australia, and the eastern part of Asia will also be able to get a complete view. The rest of the United States will be able to see part of the event.
But don’t worry. If you don’t live in an a prime location you can still watch a video of the event. NASA, the Smithsonian, and Stargazers all have live feeds of the Venus Transit. (You can watch the event below.)
It will take Venus about six hours to complete its journey across the sun. Venus is about 1/30th the diameter of the sun. Wired explains that Venus “will look like a grape crossing in front of a watermelon.”
The event will be visible by the naked eye but it’s never a good thing to look directly into the sun. Instead, use protective goggles. (Possibly the ones you bought to watch the annular eclipse.)
Venus will start its trip across the sun at about 6 pm EST. You can watch a live feed of the Transit of Venus below.
Here’s the video from NASA, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the group Star Gazers, and lastly, a live feed from Australia.
Are you going to watch the Venus Transit tonight?