Today marks the Transit of Venus, which is a fancy way of saying “Venus goes and gets in the sun’s way”.
In New Zealand we should be able to see it between 10.15am and 4.43pm. I say “should” because, for many, the weather hasn’t quite come to the party today. This is a shame, as the next transit won’t happen until 2117. It is, literally, a once in a lifetime opportunity. (If you are expecting to make it to the next viewing, send your secret to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
One News reckons the best viewing spot will be the south of the South Island – specifically Southland, Fiordland and central Otago. That doesn’t mean the rest of you shouldn’t try though. And if you’re going to, make sure you do it safely. For starters, looking straight at the sun will blind you.
NASA, the experts in such matters, suggests using “some type of projection technique or a solar filter. A #14 welder’s glass is a good choice.” ABC News elaborates further: they recommend “projecting an image onto a flat surface, through a small telescope or a pair of binoculars”. Properly filtered telescopes and cardboard eclipse glasses will do the trick too. Sunglasses are a no-no; they just aren’t dark enough to protect you properly.
For those of us obscured by clouds or blizzards I suggest you stay indoors, crank up the heater, make a hot cup of cocoa, and watch NASA’s live stream of the event. The only way to have a warmer seat would be to watch it from the sun itself.