Download: Fast, Fun, Awesome
study in australia
student information in australia
Australian University graduate information
professional networking for australian university students
employment links for australian university students
University quizzes for australian students

Don’t miss transit of Venus on June 6, next one 105 years away

At precisely 8.16am on Wednesday, June 6 Queenslanders can watch a tiny, but significant dot like a round, legless bug begin to crawl across the face of the sun.

The dot is super hot Venus, the planet that rains metal ‘snow’, passing between Earth and the sun, says Queensland University of Technology’s Dr Stephen Hughes, a senior physics lecturer in QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty.

He said the transit will take about six hours, plenty of time to have a look before the next chance comes around on December 11, 2117.

“Venus has become brighter in the lead-up to June 6 because the distance between Venus and Earth is getting smaller and smaller and will reach a minimum half way through the transit, Dr Hughes said.

“At this moment Venus will transition from being an evening star to a morning star.

“Despite its beauty Venus is a very inhospitable planet because it is enshrouded in thick clouds of sulphur acid suspended in an atmosphere of carbon dioxide with an average temperature of 460 degrees Celsius.”

Dr Hughes said Venus and Mercury were the two inner planets that orbit the sun “in front of us”. The other planets were further away and orbit the sun “behind” us.

He said the transit of Venus was historically significant to Australians and New Zealanders.

“The transit of Venus is what sparked Captain Cook’s voyage on the Endeavour in 1769, the three-year voyage during which he came upon New Zealand and then Australia.

“The English astronomer Edmond Halley (Halley’s comet) was the first to point out that observations of the transit of Venus from different parts of the Earth could be used to measure the distance to Venus which would then allow the overall scale of the solar system to be calculated.

“Astronomy was advanced enough to predict the next transit would occur on 3 June 1769 on the other side of earth from England in the Pacific and so the British Admiralty sent Cook to Tahiti to record the transit from there.

“The solar system is like a giant, but very accurate clock with eight hands – each hand being a line drawn between the sun and one of the planets.”

Dr Hughes said that although the Endeavour had the most sophisticated equipment of the time – a magnetic compass, an octant – a device which could accurately measure the angle of a celestial body above the horizon and lunar charts, this voyage was akin in danger to the Apollo 11 flight to the moon 200 years later in 1969.

“The idea behind the Tahiti expedition was to record the precise time of the first and last contact of Venus with the sun,” Dr Hughes said.

“These time measurements could then be combined with the timing of transit observations from other parts of the world to use the triangulation principle used by surveyors to measure distance.”

Cook and his crew observed the transit of Venus from start to finish in Tahiti. Cook then opened sealed instructions which ordered him to sail south and look for ‘terra Australis incognita’ the great southern continent believed to exist to counterbalance the northern hemisphere’s land mass.

“Cook headed west and eventually came to New Zealand and then explored the east coast of Australia before passing through Indonesia on the way back.”

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 2999 or

Leave a reply

Feature Research
Controlling fear by modifying DNA

For many people, fear of flying or of spiders skittering across the lounge room floor is more than just a [more]

Kidney disease gene controls cancer highway

University of Queensland researchers have discovered that a gene that causes kidney disease also controls growth of the lymphatic system, [more]

Queensland fraud is a billion dollar business

Queensland businesses could be losing over $12 billion per annum as a result of company fraud according to a recent study [more]

Inside the mind of a burglar

Burglars are opportunistic, generally choose their targets at random and know all the tricks householders try to use as deterrents, [more]

Flight experiment goes boldly forth to advance new technology

A hypersonic flight experiment at eight times the speed of sound, led by a University of Queensland PhD student, has [more]

Pre-drinking alcohol before hitting the nightclubs likely to lead to violence

The increasingly common practice of drinking at home before hitting the nightclubs is the major predictor of people experiencing harm [more]

Research reveals women are more interested in a man’s earning capacity than the size of his wallet

Despite ABBA’s insistence that women long for “money, money, money”, research has found that The Beatles were on the [more]

Challenges still face women seeking seniority in business

Research conducted by the UTS Centre for Corporate Governance underpinning the 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership reveals a decade [more]

Swiss Army Knife teeth secret to seal’s success

Biologists have shown how an advanced set of teeth give Antarctic leopard seals the biological tools to feast on prey [more]

Beautiful physics: Tying knots in light

New research published today seeks to push the discovery that light can be tied in knots to the next level. [more]