Star-crossed: How to see Venus cross the sun
Watching the transit without special glasses will permanently damage your eyes, say experts. Regular sunglasses aren't safe.
June 5th, 2012
02:04 PM ET

Star-crossed: How to see Venus cross the sun

Whatever you do, for God's sake, don't look at it with your naked eyes!

Today, the planet Venus is crossing between the Earth and the sun - and millions of people will be craning their necks and squinting to see it.

Just don't hurt yourself.

Taking a gander at the "Venus Transit" without protection will put you at risk for permanent eyesight damage, say experts.

It's going to be hard to see - even with the right eyewear. (Safety tips below.) But you might really want to take a look at it, knowing this: it's Mother Nature's last-chance offer.

To see a Venus Transit, you have to do it today. After that, it's gone. [Check out CNN's live video feed starting at 5:45 p.m. ET.]

In fact, no one now alive on this third rock from the sun will ever see one again.

Maybe your grandkids or their children will see one when the planets align the next time - in 2117 and 2125.

Show us your images of the Venus Transit

What are we going to see? According to a NASA description: Venus’s atmosphere will be "backlit by solar fire ... transiting the sun’s ghostly corona, and gliding past magnetic filaments big enough to swallow the planet whole."

Actually, it's just a little black dot against a huge sun. But in a way, it's gonna be better than a Hollywood movie, says Douglas Duncan, an astronomer at the University of Colorado. "Nowadays we can create total alien worlds in the movie theaters, but this is real - you can go outside and see this black dot. It's about the same size as Earth, and so it gives you a visceral feeling of how enormous the sun is because it dwarfs Venus."

Bring popcorn - and a No. 14 welder's glass - if you have any lying around the house.

NASA says looking at it through welder's glass is a safe option.

Welding not your style? Many astronomy clubs and museums and observatories will have solar telescopes to look through, and special cardboard glasses available to protect your eyes.

Another way is to use a pair of binoculars and point them so the light from the sun goes in the front and comes out the eyepiece. Hold a piece of paper in front of the eyepiece and focus it. If everything is working right, "you'll get a nice, round image of the sun several inches across - and you can see Venus as it comes across," says Duncan.

Related story: Get ready for the Venus Transit

The last time we saw a Venus Transit was in 2004. Before that, 1882.

Back in the day - before satellites and space probes - scientists used the Venus Transit to measure the distance between the Earth and the sun and other planetary calculations. Now, scientists hope to use it to find out exactly where the north pole of the sun is located. They also may use satellite data from the transit to find more planets outside our own system.

Venus' entire transit across the sun will take about 6 hours 40 minutes, but the whole thing won't be visible in most of the United States - only Alaska and Hawaii,  weather permitting. Folks in the U.S. can see part of the crossing - until sundown, of course - which is late in the evening this time of year. The farther west you are, the longer the event will be visible. [See this global visibility map.]

Here are the times and places in the U.S. to see it:

  • Eastern time zone:  A few minutes after 6 p.m.
  • Central time zone: A few minutes after 5 p.m.
  • Mountain time zone: A few minutes after 4 p.m.
  • Pacific time zone: A few minutes after 3 p.m.
  • Alaska: a few minutes after 2 p.m.
  • Hawaii: A few minutes after noon
Unfortunately for a lot of us, pesky cloud cover is going to be a problem.

The best weather during the transit will be in the desert Southwest and California, says CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. The Midwestern view should be nice from North Dakota to Tennessee. But clouds may pose problems in Maine and New York and also in the Southeast including Florida and Georgia. Hawaii will have clouds in some areas and the weather in Anchorage, Alaska should offer some decent views.

Elsewhere on the planet, the Venus Transit won't be visible in West Africa, Portugal and Spain. But it will be visible Wednesday after sunrise in parts of Asia, East Africa, Western Australia and most of Europe.
  • Perth, Australia: After 7 a.m.
  • Bangkok, Thailand: After 5:30 a.m.
  • New Delhi: After 5 a.m.
  • Cairo: After 4:30 a.m.
  • Rome: After 5:30 a.m.
  • Paris: After 5:30 a.m.
  • London: After 4:30 a.m.

If your weather isn't cooperating, try the interwebs - where they're streaming video of this solar spectacle. Here are a few links:

Hawaii's Keck Observatory –home of the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes - starting at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Mt.Wilson Observatory

Glenn Research Center

Sydney Observatory

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Filed under: Eclipse • In Space • News • the Sun
soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. 12000mah行動電源

    I always was thinking about this topic and stock nonetheless am, thank you for putting up. 12000mah行動電源

    June 22, 2013 at 1:44 am |
  2. Nuhu

    I have a great interest in galaxy and the solar system, can NASA tell me when are we likely to view it from Abuja, Nigeria? That is if at all we fall within the priviledge region.

    June 6, 2012 at 3:29 am |
    • robert

      years ago. I had a realy nice telescope that came with a lence you could look at the sun with. living in central Ohio a nice country home surronded by hillbillys. I went out and looked at the sun. A fire truck drove by Real slow! hard to tell the comments said.LOL. look at em. gonna burn a hole clean trew es head! dern hill billy. ! lol

      June 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  3. GeorgeBushSr

    anybody see captain planet????? him and 2012 optimus prime SWUNG by just for the occasion!

    June 6, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  4. Procrastinator

    I'll catch the next one..

    June 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  5. Lyrical poet and didnt know it

    There's a little black spot on the sun today
    it's the same old thing as yesterday

    June 5, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  6. dddddddd

    thanks for posting this at 2:05 pm on the SAME DAY it happens, when the live feed starts at 5:45.

    Because you know, not like we'd want to know ahead of time about something interesting happening.

    Too busy posting information about useless celebrities like Kim K and that drunk from Jersey shore.

    June 5, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Loren Davidson

      There's been info about this in various places online for years...and on sites like and for months. If you're really interested in stuff like this, bookmark a few sites like these and check them often. You'll find all sorts of cool info – transits, eclipses, comets, meteor showers, and more.

      In this day and age, with so many sites providing this info, don't blame any one Website if you don't have the info that you need.

      June 5, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  7. Kona

    Spectacular viewing all day here in Hawaii! Hope the rest of you have been checking out the various live streaming events on the web or NASA tv! Happy Venusian Transit Day!

    June 5, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  8. Daniel

    if you have a chnace to watch the live feeds, you should do it. It gives you a great idea just how vast the sun is since Venus is roughly the size of Earth.

    June 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  9. AlSyyed

    There is a little black spot on the sun today!

    June 5, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  10. lindaluttrell

    Thanks, CNN, for the live feed. It's cloudy here...

    June 5, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Rhiirhiin

      Kevin Cannon February 23, 2011 relax about the pot thing, but the rest of it screams LOSER. and, if you don't like fiihnsg, don't hang out with fishermen. you don't have to like everything the other does, but probably should be ok with their primary activities .and, a woman who professes to like sports and drinking should be pretty popular with men .loved the open, the same rant i often let loose: you really want to know about a person? road trip. even an all-day drive, though the overnight is most telling. harder to end early, though.kevin

      September 13, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  11. Penny Nickels

    What's the difference between a transit and an eclipse??

    June 5, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Ahem

      Try Google. They have the internet on computers now.

      June 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Nikki K

      I would venture there isn't one, except that the moon is close enough to "block" the sun, purely on the basis of perspective, thus eclipsing it when it transits. But venus is too far from earth to have that optical effect, so its size is going to look more proportionately realistic relative to the sun.

      Don't feel bad, it's not a stupid question or stupid to ask it here, the other replyer is just being a snot.

      June 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  12. Geri

    I used welders glass # 10.

    AHHHH my eyes!

    June 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Pet store guy

      haha i used number 11 with two pairs of sunglasses. looked fantastic!

      June 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  13. Penny Nickels

    I can't wait to see the next transit of Venus in 2117. Yeah, I plan to live forever.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  14. Dan Sutton

    Oh, I think I'll be alive for the next one, 115 years from now. That's what emerging technologies are for. In fact, I think I'll make a point of watching it then, just to compare... of course, my brain may have turned into congealing oatmeal by then, but we'll see. Well, I will, anyway.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  15. NowImBlind

    I just saw it in California right now. I use binoculars and turned them upside down on a piece of paper. There was definitely a small spot covering the sun. Sweet!

    June 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • NowImBlind

      Yup it's moving. Not just a smudge on the lens. I took some pictures. To bad CNN wont let me post right now...

      June 5, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • squeeker

      Same here in San Diego – perfect image with the binoculars turned backwards!

      June 5, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
      • NowImBlind

        Yeah it's out much longer than I thought. It's still not even half way through yet.

        June 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
      • Bernhard

        Hi. Thank you so much for finding out that Mariano del Rosario is a very acvtie member of his tennis club. Looks like he lied to me again and his heart can take strenuous exercise. He told me he heart is so bad he can hardly walk.He did contact me again on Saturday August 15th and told me he deposited some money in my bank account but he did not say how much money. I will check today to see if money arrived from him and how much he sent. I will post the details as soon as I know. Did he really send me money and if he did will it be enough to pay for my operation? I have no idea. He didnt specify the amount he sent and he has told me he will give me my money many times and then he didnt or he gave me a bad check. I am so tired of his lies. I loaned him my inheritance five years ago and he promised to pay me back with interest in only a few months. He said it would be better than a savings account or a CD or money market so I would be helping him and he would be helping me. Now I have spent more than four years trying to get my money back.Thank you so much for your help and support. I dont even know you and you have done more to help me than even the investigators I paid a few years ago! I am also very thankful for all of the people here who have been praying for me and wishing me good luck. I will let you know tomorrow if Mariano del Rosario sent me my money and I will definitely tell you if he tries to pay me in food stamps! That made me laugh when you were talking about how he pays for his tennis club.

        August 2, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  16. Mark

    I watched the CNN live feed. Now I'm blind. Crap.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  17. johndubya

    Ahhhh, my eyes!!
    I used welder glass number 12

    June 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  18. jim

    If i crack open a floppy disk and take out the flexible data disc inside and put it in front of my camera will this be ok?

    June 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  19. Cthulhu Rising

    The stars are right tongiht.

    June 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • NowImBlind

      cast a circle then 🙂

      June 5, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  20. cpc65

    As usual, whenever something cool is going on up there it's totally overcast in Southern New England. We're not supposed to see the Sun again until Friday. My brother even bought a fancy telescope for this. Oh, well. I'm sure the NASA or JPL websites will have some nifty satellite video posted by tomorrow.

    June 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • jatwood

      You are not missing much. The radius of Venus is 100 times smaller than the Sun. Which means, in terms of projected surface area Venus is 10,000 times smaller than Sun. So all this hoopla is about seeing a 1 in 10,000 dot on the Sun which you would anyway see if there is a decent sized dust particle on your glasses. Did I make you feel better? 🙂

      June 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
      • elizabeth

        You aren't calculating focal distance at all, so your estimation is way off. We are watching the transit in NM right now. The "speck" is pretty "specKtacular" – for those who have the weather to watch it. NASA has all kinds of live streaming video for those who don't, so NO ONE needs to miss out.

        June 5, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
      • Umakemelaugh

        ty for that

        June 6, 2012 at 5:46 am |
  21. PMS

    "In fact, no one now alive on this third rock from the sun will ever see one again" Oh yeah? Well maybe YOU won't Thom, but I am going to buy replacement organs that will be available in the next couple decades and live until 200.

    June 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • emayinin

      Exactly I read "In fact, no one now alive on this third rock from the sun will ever see one again." and thought.. Challenge accepted.

      June 5, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  22. Michael Johnson

    Cloudy. Bummer.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • DS

      I once stared at the sun with binoculars for over an hour! I'm just curious I guess. That's why my friends call me Whiskers!

      June 5, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
      • DS

        Noooo...I should have read comments first...apparently, I'm not the first to think of it 🙁

        June 5, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
      • james

        What's your favorite planet? Mine's the Sun.

        June 5, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
      • zjm

        If you had the choice between being the leading scientist in your field, or having mad cow, which would you choose?

        June 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  23. darkstar

    No worries. Zeus will come to the rescue.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  24. juanfangio

    Cloudy here in North Idaho so I doubt that we'll see Venus Transit.
    Instead we get "Sic Transit"

    June 5, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  25. RGH

    Exactly. There are 27 confirmed persons who have lived past 115. With advancemnts in medicine is is pretty much guaranteed that some kids alive today will see both the 2117 and 2125 events. Unless this article is based on the Mayan Calendar.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • ian

      Yeah, but their eyes will be so shot by then that they won't really be seeing anything.

      June 5, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
      • Sara

        Who the hell wants to live to be that old anywhere?

        June 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
      • Daniel

        I wouldn't want to be that old. I told all of my friends, I'm checking out when I get too old to fuction.

        June 5, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  26. Kona

    Should be great viewing here in Hawaii! a few clouds passing through at the moment, but should have a bird-eye view throughout the event!

    June 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  27. gerard haughey

    I sure would call these things "signs in the heavens" that's for sure!

    June 5, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • .


      June 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  28. Nick

    Same recipe as I used for the solar eclipse. A DSLR stopped down to F22, on a telephoto lens with a Vari-ND filter stopped down as well. As long as you don't stare at the sun for more than a second or two this should work. Also I have a shade-14 welding glass.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Really?

      Please use the glass over the camera; using any unshielded lens to view the Sun is very dangerous and quite moronic.

      June 5, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • nathanbrazil

      Are you seriously trying to get people to try this and go blind?! Not only is this stupid during an eclipse, the sun will be MUCH brighter during the transit.

      June 5, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  29. Ryan

    The statement "no one alive on this 3rd rock will be alive to see it" is just wrong... in 2117 a lot of very long lived people who are children now will still be alive.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

      Since you can see the future, can you give me any stock tips?

      June 5, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • sm

      Your comment shows your ignorance, and the fact that you have to attack others proves exactly what kind of person you are – mean and easily intimidated. Good point Ryan!

      June 5, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  30. Jokesterer

    Can I look at the Venus transit safely since my vision is still dark from staring at the eclipse?

    June 5, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Jokes are funny

      I am not sure what you typed.

      June 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm |

    If you have any OLD (really old) 3.5, 5.25, (or EGADS) 8" floppy disks on hand, you can crack it open and take out the flexible data disc inside and look through this into the sun.

    I have used them for eclipses and vehicle launches.

    It will work great for this too!

    June 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Michael USA15Q10

      If only I had some floppies! lol. I suppose I could try to find one around the office before I head home just in time for it.

      June 5, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
      • NooYawkah

        What about old CD's? They have holes in them.

        June 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Paul

      Hmmmm, since when did floppies stop UV? I would advise against this.

      June 5, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • jim

      If i crack open a floppy disk and take out the flexible data disc inside and put it in front of my camera will this be ok for my eyes?

      June 5, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  32. Kevin

    it's not rocket science, Doctor, if the moon were made of ribs, would you eat it?

    June 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Hongry


      June 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Tyler

      HAHAHA great post did you see him on SNL recently? I wish he did that character again

      June 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  33. Doug in SF

    "weather in Anchorage, Alaska should offer some descent views"

    I hope I can get a decent view here in California, not a descent view.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  34. john brown

    Can you please explain how to use the cd to view it?

    June 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm |


      June 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Paul

      Do not do this. CD's are not UV protected and a CD is not DARK enough to protect your eyes. It is not SHADE 14 rated.

      June 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Mehmet

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      July 31, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  35. Paul

    I live in North Pole, Alaska, and it's beautiful out today, clear skies so I will have an excellent opportunity to view it, I'm at work though, so gonna try 4 pairs of Mirror Aviator glasses to try to view...

    June 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Bob D.

      Did you get my list.......I have been a good boy!!!!!!!

      June 5, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  36. Jeremy from San Francisco

    I'm just gonna stare at the sun again like I did for the solar eclipse. Sure, for a day or two I still could see the eclipse whenever I closed my eyes...but it went away. I just need to not stare at the sun for too long today, and then catch the rest of the transit on the internet.

    June 5, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • jkflipflop

      I started to chuckle, then I remembered there really are people this stupid out there.

      June 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
      • Ryu

        My Dad died on Christmas Eve in 2007 and he left me thirty five tanhsuod dollars. I was surprised because I didn't know he had any money saved. He paid for his cremation a long time ago and he always paid his bills and did not use credit cards or have loans so he did not have any expenses but the estate attorney told me I had to wait for probate to be over and after that he gave me a check for $24.10 and the rest of my Dad's money went to the attorney for his fees! I told him it was not fair because he did not do anything except wait for probate to be over. I was really mad and he laughed and said what are you going to do about it and then he told me maybe I should sue him. Maybe it's terrible but he was killed by a drunk driver on New Years this year and I would have been more happy to have my money but I laughed when I read about the accident in the newspaper. I also hope you will get your money back venusvictrus! I wish I got my money back. I get so mad when I hear stories like this.

        August 3, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  37. choward5400

    Someone told me you can use a CD-r and look through it.

    June 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Pat

      You can. I've used them for eclipses.

      June 5, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  38. Joe

    Cloudy where I am today. Guess I'm S.O.L. Oh well – I saw Haley's Comet so I guess one out of two once-in-a-lifetime events will have to suffice.

    June 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Old Coot

      Halley's wasn't once in a lifetime however – for some of us folks 🙂

      June 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  39. Zach

    I liked the article and I wish that I didn't have cloud cover here in Northwest, WA so that I could see the event. I noted though that you asserted that no one living today on earth would be able to see the event this time and the next time around in 2117. That seems a bit presumptious to me. A 10 year old today could live to be 115 years old, check out the next Venus Transit and still have memory of the previous one...I'm just saying. People are living longer and longer now. Sorry for nit-picking. – Zach

    June 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Andrew

      I would be somewhat astounded if a 115 year old could remember an event that happened when he/she was 5.

      June 5, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
      • Tela

        The article stated that "no one now alive on this third rock from the sun will ever see one again" which doesn't require that the person remember this or be cognizant of next one.

        June 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Andrew

      Err, 10. I have no idea why I hit five.

      June 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • thompatterson

      Hi Zach, thanks for reading the post sir! Seriously I don't think your point is nitpicky at all. It's cool and optimistic. Like you, I'd thought about the possibility that future generations will live longer lives. Let's hope so! That would be a great news story wouldn't it? Headline: 115-year-old recalls 2012 Venus Transit. I'd like to write that story! Thank you again for reading and commenting. Best, Thom

      June 5, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  40. Harry Caray

    Hey! I once stared at the sun for more than an hour. That's why my friends call me whiskers. Planet or no planet if Venus was made out of ribs would you eat it? It's a simple question.

    June 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • eb

      No, I am trying to avoid red meat and pork all together.

      June 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Prof. Kent Lawler

      Heck I know I would and then I'd polish it off with a tall cool Budweiser!

      June 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
      • Bomto

        Juan Gomez October 4, 2011 From now on, I’m gonna try and sum up Kate’s date experience in 5 words or less so you won’t have to read thugorh all that stuff, kind of a condensed Cliff notes. This one is easy:Trent Likes to kill animals, sunk by Facebook. Next!

        September 13, 2012 at 2:53 am |


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