A Venus transit event is not as dramatic and perhaps frightening as a total solar eclipse might be, but there will be six more solar eclipses this decade alone, making the Venus event far more unusual. The event was particularly interesting to astronomers because Venus is one of Earth’s two closest neighbors and is so similar in size to our planet that scientists have called them near-twins. Although Venus may seem large compared to the Earth, during the transit event Venus only appeared to be a tiny dot moving across the face of the sun. Today’s astronomers know that Venus passing in front of the sun is not only a rare planetary spectacle that will not be seen for another 105 years, it is also an events they hope will teach them more about how the universe works.
Although professional astronomers and scientists used the latest technology to view Venus’ transit, amateur observers gathered across the world to look at the celestial event with filtered telescopes, welding masks or eclipse-viewing glasses. Just what was seen and for how long depended on the weather in many areas. North and Central America saw the start of the transit until sunset, and people in western Asia, the eastern half of Africa and most of Europe saw the end of the transit the next morning. The best seats for the transit were in Hawaii, Alaska, eastern Australian and eastern Asia including Japan, North and South Korea and eastern China, as those locations saw the whole transit during daylight in those regions.
Various astronomers held viewings around the world and NASA threw a watch party at its Goddard Visitor Center in Maryland using solar telescopes. Some researchers employed atomic clocks, GPS and solar telescopes to take measurements, and others used captured the event on time-lapse video. It will take some time to learn what the researchers gleaned from this rare planetary event, and anyone who missed it, literally missed a once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch Venus cross the sun.