Transit of Venus: Passing the Sun
David A. Aguilar director, Center for Astrophysics
Jay M. Pasachoff director, Hopkins Observatory
David A. Aguilar and Jay M. Pasachoff discuss June 8th, 2004, when we on Earth will witness Venus passing in front of the Sun for the first time in 122 years. This phenomenon, known as the transit of Venus, is one of the rarest of planetary alignments. The transit lasts about 6 hours and is visible from most of Europe, Africa, and Asia though, similar to an eclipse, it cannot be witnessed without a sun filter. Observations of the transit were used in the 18th and 19th centuries to determine the size of the solar system. That method has since been dismissed for its impracticality, but the transit will provide much opportunity to develop and test new techniques for the study of planets outside our solar system.
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