On Tuesday, June 5-6, 2012, many of us will get to see a rare astronomical performance. Venus will pass between the Earth and the Sun, visible as a small black dot moving across the face of the Sun. Called a "transit" by astronomers, this six-hour event will be seen in the eastern states, Europe and most of Asia. The following picks include maps showing exactly when and where, and instructions on viewing the transit safely. Never look directly at the sun.
"Only six Venus transits have occurred since the invention of the telescope in the 1600s." And this is the first since the invention of live, Internet webcasts. Tune in during the transit, or come back an hour later, to view the event as seen from Athens, Greece. Before then, visit to learn what a transit is, and why it is important. Follow the Teacher's Guide link in the lower-left hand corner for printable handouts (in Word and PDF) for grades five through twelve.
"Chasing Venus tells the story of astronomers' pursuit of this phenomenon, through rare books and articles written on the subject over the last four centuries." In 1761 and 1869, astronomers attempted to use the Venus transit to compute the Astronomical Unit, the distance from the Earth to the Sun. At that time, they narrowed it down to between 94 and 96 million miles. In addition to the fascinating history of astronomical knowledge as seen from the vantage of six Venus transits, this Smithsonian site offers nineteen Venus-related lesson plans for grades K through twelve.
Whether you are a student, educator, or amateur astronomer, Nasa has a Venus Transit website just for you. Enter through the student gateway, choose your grade, and you'll be rewarded with concentration games, crossword puzzles, word searches, vocabulary lists, and feature articles on the history, science, and art of Venus' transit. To hear the John Phillips Sousa "Venus Transit March," composed in 1883, follow the Music link from any of the Background Reading sections for grades seven through twelve.
To really appreciate the depth of Chuck Bueter's effort, take a look at the site map. With everything from transit quotations ("This sight...is by far the noblest astronomy affords..." Edmond Halley) to Transit of Venus Chocolate Chip cookies, this site must truly have it all. Start with maps of where the transit can be seen, and then proceed to the large safety section with links to pages explaining how to construct a pinhole viewing apparatus.
Written just for elementary-age kids, this European Southern Observatory site is wonderful. My favorite section is How to Observe the Transit at Your School, because it describes how to setup a pair of binoculars so a group of kids (or adults) can safely see the transit. Other excellent clicks are the introduction at The Transit of Venus ( which shows how to make a paper plate model of the transit) and Why is the Transit is So Important?