Shop Windows to the Universe

The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
This photograph was taken 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, just left of center.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy the U.S. Naval Observatory Library.

History of Venus Transits

Sometimes Venus passes between Earth and the Sun. This event is called a transit of Venus. Transits of Venus don't happen very often. There is a pattern in the time between transits of Venus. The pattern goes like this: after one transit there is another one eight years later, then more than 100 years go by, then another transit and then another eight years after that, then another wait of over 100 years, and so on.

The last Venus transit was in 1882. There are two coming up soon, on June 8, 2004 and June 6, 2012. After that there will be a long wait until the next transits. The next ones after 2012 will be on December 11, 2117 and December 8, 2125

There have only been six Venus transits so far since people started using telescopes to look at the sky. Those six were in the years 1631, 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, and 1882.

A couple hundred years ago people didn't really know how far the Earth is from the Sun or how big our Solar System is. Astronomers were able to find out those distances by making measurements during Venus transits. They had to make measurements from many different places on Earth. During the Venus transits in the 1700s and 1800s, scientists made those measurements from many places on Earth. They were able to figure out that Earth is about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) from the Sun.

Last modified May 26, 2004 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology, rocks and minerals, oceanography, and Earth system science to astronomy!

Windows to the Universe Community



You might also be interested in:

Transits of Venus

Sometimes the planet Venus gets between Earth and the Sun. Astronomers call that a "transit" of Venus. A transit is a little bit like an eclipse of the Sun, when the Moon gets between Earth and the Sun....more


A "transit" is the name of a type of astronomical event. A transit is like a solar eclipse, when the moon blocks out the Sun. During a transit a planet, not the Moon, moves between Earth and the Sun. There...more

Venus Transit in June 2004

Astronomers are excited about a rare event that will happen in early June 2004. There will be a transit of the planet Venus on June 8, 2004. "Transit" is a word used by astronomers when a planet moves...more

Mercury Transit on November 8, 2006

The planet Mercury will cross in front of the Sun on Wednesday, November 8, 2006. Astronomers call the event a transit. A transit is like a solar eclipse. However, a transit occurs when a planet, instead...more

Venus Inside and Out

Venus is the second planet from the Sun, and is Earth's closest neighbor in the solar system. Venus is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon, and sometimes looks like a bright star...more

History of Venus Transits

Sometimes Venus passes between Earth and the Sun. This event is called a transit of Venus. Transits of Venus don't happen very often. There is a pattern in the time between transits of Venus. The pattern...more

The Poles of Venus

Venus is the hottest planet in our Solar System. On Earth, places near the equator are much warmer than places near the poles. On Venus, it is really hot everywhere... even at the North and South Poles....more

The Polar Atmosphere of Venus

A vortex is a swirling, circular movement of air and clouds... like in a tornado or hurricane. The plural form of vortex is "vortices". The planet Venus has vortices in its atmosphere above each of its...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA