Friday, June 1st, 2012
BRISBANE, 1 June 2012 – On Wednesday 6th June, Australians will see a celestial sight not seen since 1882 and not to be seen again until 2117. Venus will pass directly between the Sun and the Earth and will be visible to us for several hours. Although Venus has a diameter about four times larger than that of the Moon, as it’s further away from the Earth during the transit it will look smaller and travel more slowly across the Sun’s surface. So to us it will be a small but impressive black disk moving clearly across the Sun’s surface. But…before you rush outside to scan the skies, take heed: watching the Venus transit without proper eye protection can literally be a blinding sight!

When and where
“The Venus transit will be clearly visible from most of Australia from about 8.00 Eastern Australian Time (GMT+10 hours), for up to seven hours. Although this is a magnificent event and no-one wants to miss it, nothing warrants permanent eye damage,” advises Dr Jan Coetzee of Insight Optometrists in Indooroopilly, Brisbane. “There are safe ways to watch the transit and if you really can’t arrange any of these then rather watch it online or on television.”

Venus transit viewing advice
“Never – under any circumstances – look directly into the sun without proper eyewear,” cautions Dr Coetzee. “Whether looking at the sun during an eclipse or at any other time, unprotected sun-gazing is never safe. Normal sunglasses, no matter their strength, are not enough to protect your eyes from the glare and just one glance at the transit could mean permanent eye damage.”

He advises that the only eyewear to consider for the transit is proper solar glasses, filters or welder’s goggles. Solar glasses are easily obtainable and you also get filters that fit over your normal spectacle lenses. Welder’s goggles of the right strength can also be used and all of these methods must comply with lens category 14 and upwards of the Australian standard for welding shields and goggles (AS/NZS 1338.2:1992 & AS/NZS 1338.1:1992).

“Another method that is often used by schools as it is cheap and easy to construct is the old-fashioned ‘pinhole camera’ made from sheets of cardboard – although the image produced can sometimes be a bit disappointing as it tends to be small and not well lit,” says Dr Coetzee. Also commonly used by schools is telescopic or binocular projection – where the telescope is aimed at the eclipse and projected onto a flat screen. However, if this is not properly set up and used under adult supervision it can still be highly dangerous in the event that someone looks through the telescope – and the concentrated heat coming through the lens also poses a fire risk.

Sun gazing stupidity

“Many people erroneously think that certain other viewing methods are safe, such as using multiple lenses, sunglasses or welder’s goggles stacked on top of one another. Or using eclipse glasses while looking through a telescope. Others method myths include viewing the sun through Mylar (‘foil’) crisp packets, balloons or sweet wrappers, using X-ray film, CDs, pieces of smoked glass or looking through liquids like water or coffee,” says Dr Coetzee. “All of these methods never have and never will work.” He also cautions against the use of eyepiece sun filters – the pieces of dark glass that used to be supplied with certain telescopes, designed to screw into the bottom of the eyepiece. The concentrated heat from the sun is known to shatter these filters without warning, so they are also a definite no-go sun-gazing zone.

More about the Venus transit

The Venus transit is rare and occurs in a pattern repeated every 243 years. Pairs of transits are eight years apart, separated by gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. The last pair of transits occurred in December 1874 and December 1882. The 5/6th June 2012 transit is the second in this cycle’s pair, with the first having taken place on 8 June 2004. The next pair of transits will take place in December 2117 and 2125 respectively – so the 6th June is our last chance to view Venus’s travels.

More info:
  • Visit the NASA website at: for more safe viewing advice.
  • Watch a live webcast of this magnificent event as it happens in Aus:
  • Contact Dr Coetzee at Eyecare Plus / Insight Optometrists: for more info on how to protect your eyes during the Venus transit and throughout the rest of the year.
  • See NASA video link and Transit of Venus Australia Brochure below.


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transit of Venus, Venus eclipse, eclipse, eye damage, eclipse safety, eye protection, solar eye damage, solar burn, sunglasses, eyewear, eyecare, optometrists, Indooroopilly, Brisbane



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