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Join IfA for a Rare Transit of Venus on June 5

Transit of Venus 2008

The 2004 transit of Venus as taken by NASA's Sun-observing TRACE spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/LMSAL

On the afternoon and evening of June 5, people in Hawai‘i will have the rare opportunity to view the planet Venus cross the disk of the Sun. This is the last time this will happen in our lifetimes: The next transit of Venus will occur in 2117.

The IfA will set up telescopes equipped with special solar filters for public viewing on Waikīkī Beach near Kapahulu Avenue, near the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, and at Ko Olina near Lagoon 4. In Waikīkī, we hope to follow the viewing with entertainment and a Sunset on the Beach movie with an astronomy theme. We plan to distribute free “eclipse shades” that will allow individuals to look at the Sun safely at all three locations, as well as at our Mānoa Open House on April 29. For updates on activities related to the transit, see our transit web page.

On Hawai‘i Island, there will be telescope viewing at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station. ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo is also planning some activities related to the transit, including having NASA webcast of the transit playing in their lobby and telescope viewing on their lawn (weather permitting) free of charge. Go to their website for the full schedule and the latest updates.

The NASA webcast of the transit will originate from the summit of Mauna Kea.

Venus will appear as a small dark spot moving across the Sun. Never look directly at the Sun without proper eye protection. Sunglasses do not provide enough protection. More safety information is available here.

In Hawai‘i, this event has a special historical significance, for it echoes a transit of Venus that occurred during the reign of King David Kalākaua. On December 8, 1874, a British expedition made the first scientific astronomical observations in Hawai‘i by observing the transit from a site near the corner of Punchbowl and Queen Streets in Honolulu, as well as from locations in Waimea on Kaua‘i and Kailua-Kona on Hawai‘i. They observed the transit to gather data that would be used to determine the precise distance between Earth and the Sun, and thereby, to measure the size of the solar system. For more information about the 1874 transit expedition in Hawai‘i, see an illustrated lecture given by science historian Michael Chauvin at the Smithsonian Institution in 2004.

Hawai‘i and Alaska are the only places in the United States where this event can be viewed in its entirety. In the contiguous 48 states, the Sun will set before the transit is over. In Honolulu, the transit will begin at 12:10 p.m. and end at 6:45 p.m. Because Hawai‘i is one of the best places to view this happening, it is attracting many visitors to our state.