Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

Scout Report Selection Webivore Selection SpaceCareers Selection

Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -- Full List Restored!

Venus transit

Photo of the Week. The sunrise transit of Venus, June 8, 2004. The planet appears as the small black dot at lower right. See a larger version.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 1, 2012.

It's a remarkable week with a pair of special events. We begin it with the Moon in its waxing gibbous phase as it heads to full on the morning of Monday, June 4, when it will undergo a partial eclipse (never fully entering the Earth's dark shadow) shortly before (or after) Moonset, depending on where you are. East coasters are out of luck, while west coasters get to see the whole thing. The Moon enters the Earth's dark shadow at 5 AM CDT (3 AM PDT, etc.). The middle, with the Moon only partially within the shadow, takes place at 6 AM CDT (4 AM PDT), the central parts of the US and Canada now running out their own luck. It's pretty much over at 5 AM Pacific Daylight time. After that, the Moon enters the waning gibbous phase, where it resides until the morning of Monday, June 11, when it passes third quarter high in the sky.

The big event, the whopper, is the transit of Venus, which will take place the evening of Tuesday, June 5. The transit begins at 5:05 CDT (6:05 EDT, 3:05 PDT) and runs until sunset in the contiguous US and Canada, Alaskans seeing the whole thing, which takes about 6.5 hours. Though barely visible to the naked eye, it's really a telescopic event. NOTE though that the Sun is much too bright to look at, so observing the transit absolutely requires the use of a professionally made solar filter! Transits of Venus, when the planet runs in front of the Sun during its solar conjunction, are rare indeed. They come in pairs in June and December, the last one taking place on June 8, 2004. The previous pair occurred in December of 1874 and 1882; there were none in the twentieth century at all. You'll have to wait until 2117 for the next one. Venus will thereafter rather quickly make an appearance in the morning sky.

As Jupiter is doing now, the giant planet rising during mid- dawn and still a tough catch. Mars and Saturn do much better. The ringed planet now transits the meridian to the south in mid-evening twilight a few degrees to the north of Spica in Virgo. To the west, south of classical Leo and to the southeast of Regulus, find Mars, which now sets just after local midnight (1 AM Daylight Time). The pairing of the planets with first magnitude stars is especially pretty. In invisible news, the Moon runs in front of dim Pluto on the same day as the transit of Venus, but only as seen from Antarctica.

Saturn not only highlights Spica, but Arcturus in Bootes (the Herdsman), which lies to the north- northeast, the trio making a fine picture. Then look to the northeast of Arcturus to spot the lovely semicircle of stars that makes Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown.
Valid HTML 4.0!