Monday, June 04, 2012

Venus Transit: How to Watch Safely – and Stylishly

Depending on your location, tomorrow or Wednesday will be your last chance to see Venus pass in front of the Sun for 105 years. There will be a number of watching events across the U.S. tomorrow afternoon and evening, ranging from neighborhood parties to astronomy club viewings.

But you can't look directly at the sun without the right kind of protection, and there's a number of ways to witness this rare astronomical event while preserving your sight.


Venus will transit the sun the evening of June 5 for most North American viewers. Other global viewers will see the transit on June 6. Image courtesy NASA


Eclipse Shades




Normal sunglasses will not provide the necessary eye protection for watching a transiting planet or solar eclipse. Instead, eclipse shades are probably your best option for naked eye viewing.

Put these glasses on inside, and your entire world will go dark. When worn outside, the sun becomes the only object in your field of vision. Watching clouds drift past the sun's orange silhouette through these shades can be a visual treat, so Venus's transit tomorrow should prove even more impressive.

The special filters in these glasses block 100 percent of UV rays, 100 percent of harmful infrared rays, and 99.999 percent of intense visual light, according to the manufacturer's website. That's why they render the user effectively blind.

You can order these shades online for 85 cents a piece, but it may be a little too late for them to arrive in time. Many viewing parties should have similar shades on hand, however. Local planetariums or astronomy clubs should have more information about acquiring these glasses in your area.

To the right, you can see the (not so) stylish glasses in action. At least the sun looks spectacular through their filters. Science supersedes fashion.

Other Options


If eclipse shades aren't available, there's still a number of alternatives to view the transit. Astronomy clubs will likely have telescopes equipped with the appropriate filter. Otherwise, you can make your own viewing devices.

The exploratorium has a great guide on building your own pinhole projector which allows you to indirectly view the sun. By projecting the image of the sun onto a sheet of paper, you can still see the transit in progress without damaging your eyes.

So make sure you get outside on either June 5 or June 6 to see this historical event. Bring some friends, stay safe, and prepare to see Venus in a new light.

For more information about the transit of Venus, see this informational page from NASA.

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1 comment:

  1. If you can't find glasses, #14 welding goggles or faceplate glass will also do the trick. And remember, even with eye protection, never look directly at the sun for long periods of time. Give your eyes a break after 15-20 seconds and then look again.

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