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The Winter 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist includes a variety of educational resources, ranging from astronomy to glaciers. Check out the other publications and classroom materials in our online store.
This picture was made in 1882. It shows Venus during the transit of 1882. The big white circle is the Sun. Venus is the black dot on the Sun. Venus is near the top of the Sun.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy the U.S. Naval Observatory Library.

History of Venus Transits

Sometimes the planet Venus goes between Earth and the Sun. From Earth it looks like a black dot moves across the Sun. Astronomers call this a transit of Venus.

Transits of Venus don't happen very often. Sometimes the wait between transits is about eight years. Sometimes the wait is more than 100 years!

There will be two Venus transits pretty soon. One is very soon. It will be on June 8, 2004. The next one will be eight years later on June 6, 2012. After that, you will have to wait a very long time before another Venus transit. The next one won't be until the year 2117!

People have only seen five transits of Venus so far. Those transits were in 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, and 1882.

In the past, people didn't know how far the Sun is from Earth. We didn't know how big the rest of our Solar System is either. Astronomers made some measurements during Venus transits. They used those measurements to figure out how far away the Sun is. The Sun is about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) from Earth. That is a very, very long way!

Last modified May 26, 2004 by Randy Russell.

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