Transit of Venus Festival at Bishop Museum!

Please note that regular Bishop Museum admission is required to participate in transit of Venus programming. This admission INCLUDES special programs such as planetarium shows and presentations, on a first-come first-served basis.

Transit of Venus

Mark your calendars for the Transit of Venus on Tuesday, June 5 2012. On that day, for the first time since 1874, viewers in Hawai‘i will be able to see the black dot of Venus cross the bright face of the sun.

Transits of Venus occur in pairs eight years apart; but you then need to wait over a century to see the next pair.  The “twin” of the 2012 transit occurred in June 2004.  That 2004 transit occurred after sunset in the islands, so we missed it entirely.  As if to make up for that, Hawai‘i is the best state in the US to view the 2012 transit.  We will see the entire June 5 transit in Hawai‘i, weather of course permitting.  The transit starts at 12:09 p.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time and runs over six hours, ending just before sunset at 6:42 p.m. Elsewhere in the 50 states, the sun will set on June 5 while the transit is still in progress.

This is the last transit of Venus till 2117, so this will be the only chance you will ever have observe this special event!

Venus Viewing

12 noon – 5 p.m. Great Lawn
Volunteers from the Hawaiian Astronomical Society will be on the great lawn from noon to 5 p.m. with their telescopes to show the transit of Venus.  The transit starts at 12:09 p.m. and runs till 6:42 p.m.
Bishop Museum observatory open 12 noon – 2 p.m.

Planetarium schedule

Planetarium programs are included in Museum admission. 
Admission is first-come and the line forms in the planetarium lobby.
There is no late seating for any planetarium program. 

9:30 a.m., 11:30a.m, 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m.
When Venus Transits the Sun (30 minutes)

Thus full-dome planetarium show explores the nature of the transit of Venus and covers the famous 1769 expedition of Captain Cook to observe the transit from Tahiti.

10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.
Rekindling Venus (25 minutes)

Rekindling Venus is not an astronomy program per se but rather about the sea; the program immerses the viewer intricate, complex life of coral reefs.  As even warring nations found common ground to explore the transit of Venus in past centuries, Rekindling Venus evokes global cooperation for the current environmental dangers that threaten our coral reefs.

12:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. (30 min)
The Sky Tonight

A live tour of the night sky, enhanced with full dome video segments.

 Expert talks about Venus - Atherton Hālau

Join us in Atherton Hālau as experts explore different aspects of Venus and the transit.  Programs last 30 – 35 min.

 10:45 a.m. Dr. Michael Chauvin
A Transit of Venus and a Transient Romance: Bernice Pauahi Bishop and Chester Smith Lyman. Dr. Chauvin will discuss the 1874 transit of Venus transit from Hawai‘i, the topic of his Bishop Museum Press book Hōkūloa: The British 1874 Transit of Venus Expedition to Hawai‘i.

11:30 a.m. Dr. Gareth Wynn-Williams. 
Professor of Astronomy, Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai‘i Mānoa. 
The June 5 Transit of Venus. Dr. Wynn-Williams will discuss the history of transits of Venus overall, and provide an overview of the 2012 event.                      

1:00 p.m. Dr. Paul Coleman, Institute for Astronomy
Astronomy and the Transit of Venus in Hawai‘i. Dr. Coleman will discuss how astronomy in general, and the transit of Venus in particular, are important in the history of Hawai‘i.

2 p.m. Michael Chauvin
Transit of Venus and a Transient Romance: Bernice Pauahi Bishop and Chester Smith Lyman (repeat of 10:45 a.m. talk).

3 p.m. Dr. Peter Mouginis Mark, Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai‘i Mānoa
  The Geology of Venus

3:45 p.m. Paul Coleman
Astronomy and the Transit of Venus in Hawai‘i.  (Repeat of 1 pm. program).

4:30 p.m. Gareth Wynn-Williams
The June 5 Transit of Venus (repeat of 11:30 a.m. program).

Science on a Sphere programs (planetarium lobby)

11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 pm:
Venus: The World Beneath the Clouds (20 min)

Science on a Sphere is a vivid six-foot globe that shows breathtaking images and animations of the earth and other planets. SOS was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).  This special live program uses images of Venus from NASA and Russian missions to our sister planet to explore the nature of the earth’s very different sister. 

Transit of Venus March

12:45 p.m. Great Lawn
The “march king” John Philip Sousa wrote a transit of Venus march for the 1882 transit.  The Ahuawa Place Brass Quintet will perform this piece, as well as “Venus” by Frankie Avalon and the Theme from Star Trek, at 12:45 pm on the lawn.  

Web cast of Transit

11:45 a.m. – 5 p.m.  NASA webcast from Mauna Kea of the transit. Pākī II Meeting Room

Brief videos about the transit

Showings throughout the day - Pākī I Meeting Room
A program of three videos related to the Transit of Venus and Hawaii’s connections to astronomy.  
Complete program starts at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m.   Complete program of three videos lasts 25 minutes. 


It is of course NEVER safe to view the sun directly, during a transit or otherwise.  Bishop Museum’s Shop Pacifica will have solar viewing glasses for sale in the run up to the transit, and of course our volunteers from the Hawaiian Astronomical Society will have safe viewing filters on their telescopes on transit day.

More safe viewing tips here.

Pre-transit Events

Can't make it to campus on Tuesday June 5? We are doing programming on Saturday and Sunday, June 2 - 3 in preparation for the transit.

Why the transit of Venus matters

The transit of Venus has a special place in the history of astronomy.  By the start of the 17th century astronomers knew the relative distances of objects in the solar system.  They knew, for example, that Mars was about 1.5 times as far from the sun as the earth is.  However, no one knew the actual distance to the objects in the solar system. 

Edmond HalleyOne solution to this mystery was proposed by Edmond Halley (right) in 1716.  His idea: time the start of the transit of Venus from two widely separated parts of the earth.  Using the distance between those two spots on earth as the baseline, one could then use triangulation to get the distance from earth to the sun.  Since the relative distances we already known, getting the correct distance from the earth to the sun would allow you to unlock the actual distances to all other objects in the solar system.  For example: if you were able to discover that the earth was 100 million miles from the sun, you could figure out that Mars must be 150 million miles from the sun, since you already knew that Mars was 1.5 times as far from the sun as the earth is.

As with the famous comet whose return he predicted, Halley did not live long enough to see the next transit of Venus in 1761.  However, his idea drove a wide-flung series of expeditions in 1761 and 1769 to view the transit of Venus, since the Halley method required that the transit be watched from widely separated parts of the earth.  The most famous of these expeditions was Captain Cook’s 1769 expedition to Tahiti.  While there were complications that prevented the measurements from being as precise as desired, scientists were able to get the correct distance to the sun to within about 2 per cent based on these 18th century transits.

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