SC State Observes Venus Transit - A Once (or twice) in a Lifetime Event


Students, faculty and members of the general public turned out to watch a real-time event that occurs only once or twice in a person's lifetime, a transit of the planet Venus. On June 6, 2012, approximately 100 people converged on the field behind Felton Laboratory School on the campus of SC State University. Telescopes, computers and other instruments were manned by SC State physics faculty members Jennifer Cash, Dan Smith and Don Walter and summer astronomy interns Johnae Eleby, Will Hernandez, Charles Kurgatt, Maria Martinez, Myles McKay and Byran Pugh.

A transit of Venus occurs when the planet passes between the Sun and the Earth. Observers on Earth see the dark shadow of Venus slowly move across the solar disk. Telescopes with special filters are needed to protect an individual's eyes from intense solar light.

This type of event occurs when the orbital motion of the Earth and Venus are properly aligned, something so rare it occurs only every 120 years or so. When this does happen, there are two separate transits, eight years apart. The recent pair of Venus transits occurred in 2004 and 2012. The previous pair occurred in 1874 and 1882 and the next event will not happen until 2117 and 2125.

In addition to the photographs below taken at the SC State event on June 6, 2012, additional online in background information and NASA satellite movies can be found at:

click on image to enlarge


A picture taken through one of the SC State telescopes. The small dark circle at the far right edge of the Sun’s disk is Venus.

The solar disk and Venus projected onto a screen by the Solar Scope.

The transit seen through a  SC State telescope as the Sun sets behind some trees. Venus is barely visible near the right edge of the Sun as a fuzzy round disk.

The crowd at SC State for the transit event.
SC State astronomy interns and faculty set up for the event.
Myles and Johnae prepare a computer
Dr. Cash (left) and Maria at the computer and Solar Scope Projection System

Bryan demonstrates the telescope to visitors.

Dr. Walter at the telescope with visitors.  The silvered disk visible at the end of the telescope is a filter that cuts out most of the solar light.

Members of the public (left) check out a display as Dr. Cash (white lab coat), Myles, Johnae
and Dr. Smith look on.

Clouds interfere with the observations.