-->
Home Store Project Ideas Project Guide Ask An Expert Blog Careers Teachers Parents Students

Venus Transit: Last Chance of the Century

By Kim Mullin

Did you know that our moon is not the only heavenly body to pass between Earth and the Sun? The orbits of both Mercury and Venus infrequently take them on such a path, and on June 5th, you will have your last opportunity of the century to see Venus make this "transit." The next transit of Venus will not occur until 2117!

We call this phenomenon a "transit" because from Earth we can see the planet moving across the face of the Sun. Unlike a solar eclipse, when the moon blocks a large portion of the Sun from our view, a transit appears as a small black dot crossing in front of the Sun because Mercury and Venus are much further away from the Earth than the moon.


Transit Visible from All of North America

The transit of Venus will be visible from all of North America, but as with last month's solar eclipse, you must not view it directly with your eyes. Ask an adult to help you plan a safe way to witness the transit. Sky and Telescope's article about how to safely view a solar eclipse or transit can get you started.

2012-blog-2012_Venus_Transit_USMap_428px.jpg
The map above shows the path of the Venus Transit.
Image: Michael Zeiler / Eclipse-maps.com


Transit of Venus Instrumental to Early Understanding of Our Solar System

18th century astronomers understood that the planets orbited the Sun, but they didn't know how big the solar system was. Then, astronomer Edmond Halley realized that the timing of a transit of Venus could help astronomers answer this question. NASA's "James Cook and the Transit of Venus" article can give you all of the details, but what's important to know is that without the transit of Venus in 1769, we might not have understood the size of our solar system until much later in history.


Just in Case...

If you can't see the century's last transit of Venus, then mark May 9, 2016 on your calendar—that's when Mercury will make its next transit.


See Also

Science Buddies Science Activities

Science Buddies and Autodesk for Student STEM Exploration


thumbnail
We go DIY with molecular gastronomy and family science as we make our own popping boba using the Spherification Kit from the Science Buddies Store.

thumbnail
The current Ebola crisis in West Africa has already topped charts for all Ebola outbreaks in history. Medical biotechnology science projects let students gets hands-on with projects that parallel real-world research and development.

thumbnail
An unusual caterpillar brings lots of "eeeews!" and one contribution to a citizen science project. Discover how anyone can collaborate on serious scientific research.

thumbnail
UC Berkeley Professor Dan Garcia talks about the kind of "drag-and-drop," block-based, snap-together programming environments that are becoming increasingly popular as a way to introduce students of all ages to code.

thumbnail
With a smorgasbord of fun, engaging, playful, and puzzling modules available as part of the Hour of Code initiative, kids can experiment with programming basics and sample Javascript, Python, Ruby, and more.

thumbnail
The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest gives U.S. secondary public schools a chance to use STEM to help address problems affecting their students and communities--and a chance at a share of $2 million in technology.



Your Science!
What will you explore for your science project this year? What is your favorite classroom science activity? Email us a short (one to three sentences) summary of your science project or teaching tip. You might end up featured in an upcoming Science Buddies newsletter!



You may print and distribute up to 200 copies of this document annually, at no charge, for personal and classroom educational use. When printing this document, you may NOT modify it in any way. For any other use, please contact Science Buddies.