On June 5, 2012, observers in Hawai‘i will be positioned to view that rare event called the transit of Venus, which occurs when the planet Venus passes before the sun as it is viewed from Earth. Throughout the United States, only Hawai‘i and Alaska will offer vantage points to observe the entire transit from beginning to end.
A transit of Venus will not occur again for more than one hundred years, and several local organizations, including the University of Hawai‘i Institute for Astronomy and the Bishop Museum, have planned activities around the event.For the historically minded in Hawai‘i, the 2012 transit calls to mind the 1874 transit of Venus, when an expedition of seven British astronomers set up camp in the Islands for six months to observe the celestial phenomenon. The story of that expedition was told in detail by Michael Chauvin in the 1993 issue (vol. 27) of The Hawaiian Journal of History. Chauvin’s article can be read on line at http://bit.ly/JxC94J. Chauvin’s illustrated lecture on the same subject at the Smithsonian Institution in 2004 can also be found on line (http://bit.ly/KBGrGa).
Useful information about the transit of Venus, both current and historical, can be found at these sites:
- University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy (http://ifa.hawaii.edu/transit)
- Bishop Museum (http://www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium/venus.html)
- TransitofVenus.org (http://www.transitofvenus.org/)