Press Release

Venus to Eclipse Sun for First Time in 122 Years

By SpaceRef Editor
May 24, 2004
Filed under ,

Note to Editors/Producers: This release is accompanied by six
publication-quality graphics and a broadcast-quality animation; see
details on our Web site at

To provide your viewers and readers with more background on the
transit, please direct them to

On Tuesday, June 8th, the planet Venus will glide directly across the
face of the Sun. No one alive today has seen Venus “transit” the Sun
— it last happened in 1882 — and astronomers around the world are
eagerly awaiting this rare event. Only one other transit of Venus
will occur this century, eight years from now on June 6, 2012.

Think of a transit as a miniature eclipse of the Sun. During a total
solar eclipse, the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s disk for just a
few minutes. But even though Venus is much larger than the Moon, it’s
also about 100 times farther away, so it can cover only a fraction of
the solar disk. As Venus makes its long-awaited crossing, it will
appear as a perfectly round black dot slowly moving across the Sun’s
face. The most interesting aspects of this 6-hour-long event will
occur when Venus enters and exits the outer edge of the solar disk,
each passage taking about 20 minutes to complete. For example, as it
starts to leave the Sun the planet’s silhouette may look pear-shaped,
creating what’s called the “black-drop effect.”

For observers in eastern and central North America, the Sun rises on
June 8th with the transit already well under way. The entire event
will be visible from Europe, central/eastern Africa, the Middle East,
and Asia (except the Far East). The table below lists representative
North American cities for which the transit will be in progress at
sunrise, grouped by time zone. Transit times for cities in Europe,
Africa, the Middle East, and Asia are available through the online
version of this press release.

Venus's exit Venus's exit Sun's City Sunrise begins ends altitude at end (degrees) ------------------------------------------------------------------- Halifax, NS 5:29 a.m. 8:05 a.m. 8:25 a.m. 28 Moncton, NB 5:28 a.m. 8:05 a.m. 8:25 a.m. 28 Saint John's, NL 5:06 a.m. 8:35 a.m. 8:55 a.m. 35 San Juan, PR 6:47 a.m. 8:08 a.m. 8:28 a.m. 22 Atlanta, GA 6:27 a.m. 7:06 a.m. 7:26 a.m. 10 Boston, MA 5:08 a.m. 7:05 a.m. 7:25 a.m. 23 Charlotte, NC 6:09 a.m. 7:06 a.m. 7:26 a.m. 14 Columbus, OH 6:03 a.m. 7:05 a.m. 7:25 a.m. 13 Detroit, MI 5:56 a.m. 7:05 a.m. 7:25 a.m. 14 Miami, FL 6:29 a.m. 7:07 a.m. 7:27 a.m. 11 Montreal, QC 5:06 a.m. 7:05 a.m. 7:25 a.m. 22 New York, NY 5:25 a.m. 7:05 a.m. 7:25 a.m. 20 Ottawa, ON 5:15 a.m. 7:05 a.m. 7:25 a.m. 20 Pittsburgh, PA 5:50 a.m. 7:05 a.m. 7:25 a.m. 16 Toronto, ON 5:36 a.m. 7:05 a.m. 7:25 a.m. 17 Washington, DC 5:43 a.m. 7:06 a.m. 7:26 a.m. 18 Chicago, IL 5:16 a.m. 6:05 a.m. 6:25 a.m. 11 Dallas, TX 6:18 a.m. -- 6:26 a.m. 1 Little Rock, AR 5:56 a.m. 6:05 a.m. 6:25 a.m. 5 Memphis, TN 5:46 a.m. 6:05 a.m. 6:26 a.m. 7 Minneapolis, MN 5:27 a.m. 6:04 a.m. 6:24 a.m. 8 Omaha, NE 5:51 a.m. 6:04 a.m. 6:25 a.m. 5 New Orleans, LA 5:59 a.m. 6:06 a.m. 6:26 a.m. 5 St. Louis, MO 5:36 a.m. 6:05 a.m. 6:25 a.m. 8 Sioux Falls, SD 5:46 a.m. 6:04 a.m. 6:25 a.m. 5 Winnipeg, MB 5:21 a.m. 6:03 a.m. 6:24 a.m. 8 Edmonton, AB 5:07 a.m. -- 5:23 a.m. 1 Regina, SK 4:48 a.m. 5:03 a.m. 5:23 a.m. 4

WARNING: The Sun is dangerous to look at directly without a safe
solar filter. staring at it can cause serious eye injury and even

Fortunately, there are many easy ways to watch the transit safely.
If you have keen vision, Venus should appear just large enough to
be barely visible as a tiny black dot as it crosses the Sun. But
when looking at the Sun you must use a safe solar filter, such as
a #13 or #14 welder’s glass or special “eclipse glasses” designed
for solar viewing. Filters that are NOT safe, though sometimes
recommended in error, include smoked glass, stacked sunglasses,
metallized candy wrappers, and compact disks. While these will
darken the Sun, they may still transmit enough infrared radiation
to damage your eyes.

Binoculars or telescopes can be used to view the transit, even if
they are not equipped with a safe solar filter. Do not look
directly into the eyepiece or the telescope’s finder, but instead
place a white card behind the eyepiece and project the Sun’s image
onto it. (The small, dark-glass disks that screw into the
eyepieces of some older scopes are not safe and should be
discarded. The Sun’s light and heat, concentrated by the
telescope, may shatter them suddenly.)

* * * * *

A guide to June’s transit of Venus and viewing the Sun safely
appears in the May/June issue of NIGHT SKY magazine, now available
on newsstands. To obtain a PDF of this article via e-mail, media
representatives should contact Marcy L. Dill (617-864-7360 x143; More detailed articles, exploring the
historical significance of transits and how to photograph them,
appear in the February, May, and June issues of SKY & TELESCOPE

For a list of online and mail-order retailers offering solar
filters, go to

For more tips on how to view the Sun safely, go to

* * * * *

SKY & TELESCOPE is making publication-quality illustrations and a
broadcast-quality animation of the 1882 transit of Venus available
to the news media. Permission is granted for one-time,
nonexclusive use in print and broadcast media, as long as
appropriate credits (as noted in each caption) are included. Web
publication must include a link to You can
download the graphics and read the captions via the online version
of this press release:

SpaceRef staff editor.