Irene Worthington Baron




Venus will transit the Sun 5 June 2012.


Information about the event is available at:


Here in the United States, the transit will be visible right before sunset.  It will be a fun event to experience with kids ages 2-100+.  However, you can’t look directly at the sun as that will burn the retina causing permanent damage to your eyes. 


So, how do you observe a solar phenomena that is so dangerous to your eyes?  There are several ways.  Try to borrow a telescope or binoculars for the best view of the transit. 


Since you won’t be looking directly through the instruments with your eyes, you will need to prepare a screen on which to project the image.  It can be made with cardboard.  Tape or glue white paper or white poster board to the cardboard. You can also use a white pillowcase or sheet stretched tightly. The screen may be mounted on a tripod, porch railing, etc. or held by a volunteer.


1.     TELESCOPE METHOD: (keep your back to the Sun)  DO NOT LOOK THROUGH THE TELESCOPE EYEPIECE OR THROUGH THE OPEN END. Instead of putting your eye to the eyepiece, put the screen near the eyepiece.  When the telescope is in the right position with sunlight coming directly through the tube, you will see the image of the Sun projected onto the screen. See diagram below.


To easily find the best telescope position, look at the shadow of the telescope.  Move the telescope to make the shadow as small as you can. This will help line up the telescope perfectly. The further the white board/paper is from the telescope eyepiece, the larger the image will become. The projected image can then be videoed, photographed, etc.   




2.    BINOCULARS METHOD: (keep your back to the Sun) You can duplicate the above method using binoculars.  Having the binoculars on a tripod will make it easier to keep the image in view. DO NOT LOOK THROUGH THE BINOCULARS.  Instead, put the screen where your eye would normally be placed.  When the binoculars are in the correct position, you will see the image of the Sun projected onto the screen. The further the screen is from the binoculars, the larger the image. The image can be videoed, photographed, etc.


3.     MAGNIFYING GLASS: (keep your back to the Sun)  You can project light through a magnifying glass onto your screen.  This projection is usually small and dim when the screen is moved away from the magnifying glass.  It’s okay for observations of a solar eclipse, but not a transit of Venus or Mercury.


4.     TREE: (keep your back to the Sun)  Spread a white sheet or screen on the ground under a tree.  Where sunlight filters through the tree between leaves, you will see hundreds of  miniature solar images.  Since the images are so small, this is great for viewing a solar eclipse, but not for transits of planets.


5.    # 14 WELDERS GLASS:  Use with caution.


DO NOT USE mylar, sunglasses, developed photographic film, or space blankets as they are unsafe and will cause eye damage.


The Earth is rotating very fast.  Here in Ohio the surface rotation rate is over 600 miles per hour. That means the telescope or binoculars being used to view the Sun will be carried along with you on the surface of the Earth at hundreds of miles per hour toward the east.  You will have to slowly keep adjusting the instrument to keep the Sun in view.  You will easily see what direction the image is moving and quickly adapt at keeping it in view by adjusting the instrument. Children will enjoy doing this for you.  It will also help them improve their eye-hand coordination.


REMEMBER TO NOT LOOK THROUGH THE TELESCOPE OR BINOCULARS.  LOOK ONLY AT THE SCREEN PROJECTION.  Keep reminding everyone with you to not look directly at the Sun. 


Caution: People usually feel no pain if they do look directly at the Sun and may not realize damage is being done. 








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