View the Transit of Venus at The University of Sydney

Transit of venus

Date: Wednesday 6th June
Time: 10am - 3pm. View the full schedule.
Talks and Viewing: Front Lawn outside The Quad
BBQ: 12-1 Botany Lawn
Cost: Free

Weather plan: If overcast or raining, the Transit will not be visible and the event will be cancelled.

More information:
Science Marketing & Communication Unit
Vanessa Barratt | 0434 323 501 |

The Transit of Venus holds a significant place in the history of Australia. When James Cook first set off from the shores of England, his stated objective was to observe the transit of Venus from Tahiti. The reason for this was to pin down the distance scale of the Solar System - important not only for science, but also for navigation. It was only after this vital mission was complete that he set out to find the southern continent. More than two centuries later, Australia’s oldest university is proud to be observing the last transit of Venus of this generation.

The University of Sydney Physics Society will be holding a public viewing of the Transit of Venus on 6 June 2012, for the entirety of its duration. This will be the last time Venus will transit the Sun until 2117. In conjunction with the School of Physics, Faculty of Science and our sponsor Australia Telescopes, we will have several solar telescopes for observing, transit eye glasses and an internet stream of the transit as seen from other locations. We will also be collaborating with a group at Hong Kong Polytechnic to replicate James Cook's experiment, to find the distance from the Earth to the Sun using measurements of the transit. Dr.Karl Kruszelnicki and four researchers from the School of Physics, Profs. Tim Bedding, Iver Cairns and Mike Wheatland, and Dr. Paul Hancock, will be giving short talks throughout the day on the science of the Transit, exoplanets and sunspots.


10am - 3pm: Continuous observations on Front Lawns

11am: A/Prof Mike Wheatland

Solar Activity

Just ignore Venus, which is a boring black dot. Focus instead on the strange and foreboding black marks on the Sun's disk! Those marks (sunspots) are the most obvious signs of solar activity – dynamic behaviour on the Sun that is driven by the Sun's magnetic field. Large-scale solar activity (solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections) involves gigantic magnetic explosions that can adversely affect our local space weather environment, potentially wreaking havoc here on Earth. This talk describes sunspots, solar cycles, flares, space weather and even climate change (but not Venus).

11:30am Dr Paul Hancock

How the transit of Venus allows us to measure the size of the solar system

Venus is the evil doppelgänger of the Earth but it can be used to our benefit in the measurement of the size of our solar system. Until relatively recent times astronomers had a scale model of the solar system, but no measurement of this scale. Physoc are teaming up with international collaborators to repeat this measurement. In this talk I will show how we can measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun using observations of Venus and the Sun and some high school mathematics. Captain Cook had to sail half way around the world to observe the transit of Venus but you only have to walk across campus to view the transit and this talk!

12:30pm: Professor Tim Bedding

Thousands of Transiting Extrasolar planets with the Kepler Space Mission

NASA's Kepler Mission is monitoring the brightness of hundreds of thousands of stars, watching for the tiny dips in light caused by a transiting planet. So far, Kepler has discovered thousands of extra-solar planets, indicating that they are relatively common. Some highlights include: a planet that orbits twin suns (a "Tatooine"), many systems with multiple planets that affect each others orbits, planets the size of Jupiter that orbit their stars in only a few days and planets the size of Earth that could have liquid water.

1:30pm Professor Iver Cairns

Venus, Sunspots, and Solar Activity

When is the Sun's visible surface perfect and unblemished, what are sunspots, and can Venus transiting the solar disk be distinguished from a sunspot? Beyond these questions, what does solar activity mean, and is the current cycle of solar activity likely to be a large or small? This talk will answer these questions, and describe some aspects of solar activity and "space weather". It will also touch on climate change.

2:25pm Egress Interior and Exterior with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki

Join the School of Physics Julius Sumner Miller Fellow, Dr Karl, to watch the final stage of the Transit of Venus as the planet passes over the edge of the Sun between 2:25pm and 2:45pm.