Catch all six hours of the last transit of Venus for 105 years from the southern hemisphere
As predictable astronomical phenomena go, it’s one of the rarest – the next transit of Venus across the Sun won’t take place until the year 2117.
The last such event in our lifetimes takes place on 6 June 2012, but from the UK, only the final 50 minutes will be visible as the Sun rises around 5am.
The black-drop effect can be seen in its six-hour 50-minute entirety from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
Here are some great ideas for combining the astronomical event of a lifetime with a dream holiday.
CARTER OBSERVATORY, WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
The ‘land of the long white cloud’ may not sound like an especially auspicious place for stargazers, but there are plenty of fine vantage points for the transit of Venus in New Zealand.
Wellington’s newly re-opened Carter Observatory tells the stories of the skies above New Zealand, including Maori astronomy and cosmology, creation stories, Matariki (the Maori New Year), and a perspective on the voyages of Captain Cook, early European navigation, and all amid a wealth of telescopes.
Carter Observatory, Wellington
Local timing of transit: 6 June, 10:15-16:43
MAUNA KEA VOLCANO, HAWAII
With clear skies, volcanoes and observatories, Hawaii should be on any stargazer’s wish list, so it’s fitting that the islands will be in prime position to witness the transit.
Explorers Astronomy Tours is offering a 10-day Hawaii Transit of Venus itinerary that culminates in witnessing the transit of Venus from an altitude of 4,200m on the slopes of Mauna Kea, in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
This trip, which departs on 31 May and costs £3,699 per person (including flights from the UK), also includes a visit to local observatories and a tour of the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, Los Angeles, home to such interplanetary space missions as Cassini-Huygens to Saturn and Exploration Rovers to Mars.
Hawaiian Transit of Venus
Contact: 0845 004 1416
Local timing of transit: 5 June, 12:10-18:44
Here’s a great option for independent travellers willing to find their own flights and accommodation Down Under.
Located near the Opera House and Harbour Bridge and nicknamed ‘the Obs’, Sydney Observatory was a hub of activities surrounding the last Transit of Venus in 2004, and this year will feature an astronomy and history presentation, solar telescopes and binoculars, a 3D Space Theatre session and even a large live projection of the event that all visitors will be able to view.
You can book to see the entire transit for A$80 (07:30-15:00) or choose a session (07:30-09:30, 10:00-12:30 and 13:00-15:00) for A$35 – solar viewing glasses included. Book online from 1 February.
Local timing of transit: 6 June, 08.16-14.44
LORD HOWE ISLAND, AUSTRALIA
Less than two hours’ flight time from Sydney is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island.
Around 700km northeast and with a dark sky guaranteed, this is a great place to head if luxury travel is your thing.
It’s possible to arrange an accommodation-only package, such as this one at Capella Lodge, though Bridge & Wickers’ Luxury Coast to Coast …
And Beyond Indian Ocean to the Pacific itinerary visits Lord Howe island for a relaxing five days after a thrilling adventure around Australia.
Total cost is £5,561 and the viewing of Venus will be a do-it-yourself affair, but you’ll also visit Perth, the wine region of Margaret River, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Sydney and the nearby Blue Mountains. Qantas offers an affordable add-on from Sydney to Lord Howe when it’s booked in conjunction with an international ticket.
Luxury Coast to Coast … And Beyond
Contact: 020 7483 6555
Local timing of transit: 6 June, 08:15-14:43
CRUISE SHIP, TAHITI
If you want to follow in the footsteps of Capt James Cook, who sailed to Tahiti for June 1769 to observe and record a transit of Venus, you can join a plethora of cruises in the South Pacific.
A seven-night circular Tahiti & The Society Islands voyage on the Paul Gauguin departs Papeete on 2 June 2012 and visits Raiatea, Taha’a, Bora Bora (overnight) and Moorea in the company of Bill Kramer, an expert in solar eclipse prediction mathematics.
The trip costs £4,140 per person, including return economy flights from the UK, overseas transfers, a night in Los Angeles and use of a day room post-cruise.
Tahiti & the Society Islands Cruise
Contact: 020 7434 0089
Local timing of transit: 5 June, 12:12-18:43
Check the exact times of when the transit of Venus will begin and end where you live at this great site.
For information on other astrononomy holidays, see the February 2012 issue of Sky at Night Magazine – on sale 24 January.