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Venus Transit 2012: Venus, Earth and Sun align June 5 in rare event (VIDEO)


A man prepares to press the shutter on his camera as he takes a picture of the sunset from The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California June 4, 2012. June 5 will be the first time since 1882 that the Transit of Venus in front of the sun will be seen in the western United States. Since the telescope's invention the Transit of Venus has only been viewable anywhere in the world in the years 1631, 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882 and 2004, according to NASA's Fred Espenak.



Venus will transit the face of the Sun today, as viewed from Earth, in a very rare astronomical event. 

A transit of Venus occurs when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth, according to

The BBC said Venus will appear as a tiny black dot moving against the Sun, but warned that viewers shouldn't look directly at it as this can cause serious injury and even blindness.

The journey of Venus across the Sun will take more than six and a half hours, starting at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) on Tuesday, June 5, and ending at around 12:50 a.m. EDT (0450 GMT) on Wednesday, June 6, according to

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The 2012 transit of Venus will be visible from the northwest United States, the Pacific and East Asia. It may also be visible from other places on Earth, depending on weather, the BBC said.

It will likely be your last chance to see it — the next transit of Venus won't occur until 2117. 

The alignment of Venus, the Earth and the Sun comes in pairs that are eight years apart but separated by more than a century. Venus transits will occur four times over the course of about 243 years.

The last transit took place in 2004, making this one the second in a pair.

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While the transit of Venus may be a rare and beautiful sight, it also plays an important role in helping astronomers spot alien planets.

Jay Pasachoff of Williams College told "We're trying to do as much as we can to use the transit of Venus to understand exoplanets and their atmospheres.”

MSNBC said astronomers look for transits in other solar systems to help detected potential planets.

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