Sign Up: Free Daily Tech E-letter  
Technology Home
   -Aether Systems
   -AOL & Time Warner
   -Celera Genomics
   -Human Genome Sciences
   -Lockheed Martin
   -XM Satellite Radio
   -XO Communications
Tech Policy
Government IT
Personal Tech
Special Reports

Sky Watch
Book Your Seat for Venus Transit


Stock Quote and News
Historical Chart
Company Description
Analyst Ratings
Human Genome in hepatitis drug trial (Associated Press, May 26, 2004)
Biotech Company Laying Off 200 More (The Washington Post, Mar 25, 2004)
U.S. to Buy Anthrax Vaccine (The Washington Post, Mar 12, 2004)
Companies Detail Promising Tests of Anthrax Treatments (The Washington Post, Mar 9, 2004)
More Company News
E-Mail This Article
Print This Article
By Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, June 2, 2004; Page B08

There's a little black spot on the sun June 8.

From our earthly perspective, the planet Venus crosses the sun for the first time since 1882, and the event will be visible at sunrise in the Washington area. This solar crossing, or transit, is among the rarest of astronomical events.

The eastern half of North America gets to see the final portion of the transit, while Europe, Asia and Africa get a longer, better view.

Washingtonians can see the transit after sunrise, which is at 5:43 a.m., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Venus will be in the latter stage of the transit by that time. By 7:06 a.m., Venus will be exiting the sun's edge, and the event will be over by 7:26 a.m.

Because Venusian transits happen in pairs because of celestial mechanics -- albeit eight years apart -- the second transit in this set will be June 6, 2012. If you miss it, the next set will be Dec. 11, 2117, and Dec. 8, 2125.

Never look at the sun directly with the naked eye, or do something foolish such as use smoked glass or sunglasses -- you could go blind. Instead, for safety's sake, project the image through a telescope or binoculars onto white paper or poster board. (Never view the sun directly through the lens of a telescope or the lenses of binoculars, as this will increase the sun's intensity and blind you.) The pinhole-in-cardboard technique, popular for viewing solar eclipses, works for transits as well.

For eye-safety information, go to

Through his research, astronomer Sten Odenwald of NASA's Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum has discovered that John Philip Sousa wrote the "Transit of Venus March" after the 1882 event. The Smithsonian Institution commissioned Sousa to write a march for the dedication of the Joseph Henry statue. (Henry, a scientist, was the institution's first director.) It was first performed April 19, 1883, and a modern recording by the Virginia Grand Military Band can be heard at a Library of Congress Web site,

What happens when you mix astronomy and entomology? You get another rare event. Even more infrequent than the transit of Venus is a simultaneous visit by Brood X (17-year) cicadas. Odenwald calculated that the last time these cicadas emerged concurrently with a Venus transit was May 22, 797, and the time before that was May 23, 921 BC.

If you want to get up early and watch safely, the local events for June 8 transit will include:

1 2     Next >
Print This Article Home

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Company Postings: Quick Quotes | Tech Almanac
About | Advertising | Contact | Privacy
My Profile | Rights & Permissions | Subscribe to print edition | Syndication