Posted by Kelly on June 6th, 2012
Some people made big plans to watch this rare transit of Venus, traveling to special spots around the globe. I had plans, too: It was my bi-weekly golf night with my girlfriends. The transit was expected to last from 5:30 to 8:30 (sunset for us), and our tee time was at 5:30. Normally nine holes should only take two hours, but the course is pretty packed on ladies’ league night and it usually takes us closer to three hours. So I expected to be on the golf course during the entire transit, and it turns out I was.
I took my trusty, decades-old eclipse glasses and stowed them in my golf bag. On the first hole while we were waiting for the group in front of us to tee off, I took them out to take a peek and, sure enough, Venus was edging in front of the top of the Sun. Just about every tee after that as we waited for our turn to play, we passed around the eclipse glasses and watched as Venus buried itself further into the depths of the Sun. The small black dot of Venus also became much easier to see as it passed farther onto the Sun’s surface.
Venus only dims the Sun by about 0.1%, not enough to make us shrug on a jacket against a chill. But the slight dimming that a planet makes as it passes in front of its parent star is used to search for extrasolar planets. The Kepler telescope, which has found 61 confirmed planets around distant stars, can detect changes in brightness of only 20 parts per million.
I hope you were able to see the transit of Venus for yourself, wherever you may have been!