Venus in Transit Across Sun
The 2012 transit of Venus, when the planet Venus appeared as a small, dark disk moving across the face of the Sun, began at 22:09 UTC on 5 June 2012, and finished at 04:49 UTC on 6 June. Depending on the position of the observer, the exact times varied by up to ±7 minutes. Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable celestial phenomena and occur in pairs eight years apart which are themselves separated by more than a century: the previous transit was in June 2004, and the next pair of transits will not occur until December 2117 and December 2125.
A transit of Venus across the Sun takes place when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth (or another planet), becoming visible against (and hence obscuring a small portion of) the solar disk. During a transit, Venus can be seen from Earth as a small black disk moving across the face of the Sun. The duration of such transits is usually measured in hours (the transit of 2012 lasted 6 hours and 40 minutes). A transit is similar to a solar eclipse by the Moon. While the diameter of Venus is more than 3 times that of the Moon, Venus appears smaller, and travels more slowly across the face of the Sun, because it is much farther away from Earth.
Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena. They occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. The periodicity is a reflection of the fact that the orbital periods of Earth and Venus are close to 8:13 and 243:395 commensurabilities.
The last transit of Venus was on 5 and 6 June 2012, and was the last Venus transit of the 21st century; the prior transit took place on 8 June 2004. The previous pair of transits were in December 1874 and December 1882. The next transits of Venus will be in December 2117 and December 2125.
Venus transits are historically of great scientific importance as they were used to gain the first realistic estimates of the size of the Solar System. Observations of the 1639 transit, combined with the principle of parallax, provided an estimate of the distance between the Sun and the Earth that was more accurate than any other up to that time. In addition, the June 2012 transit will provide scientists with a number of other research opportunities, particularly in the refinement of techniques to be used in the search for exoplanets.