People in the UK will be able to follow the entire journey of the planet Venus across the Sun through a webcast streaming video and images from telescopes around the world.
The journey, known as a transit, will only be visible from Britain after sunrise on 6 June 2012 just as the planet, visible as a dark spot, is nearing the end of its crossing. However, thanks to the GLORIA (GLObal Robotic-telescope Intelligent Array) project, armchair astronomers in the UK will be able to follow the transit online from 11pm BST on the 5 June.
The webcast will be available on the GLORIA website.
The UK side of the GLORIA collaboration is led by the Oxford University scientists behind planethunters.org, a website that invites volunteers to use transits across other stars to find alien planets beyond our solar system.
'Because of the way their orbits tilt it's very rare that the Sun, Venus, and the Earth line up in this way and, as the next transit isn’t until the year 2117, for most of us this is our one and only chance to witness this spectacular event,' said Robert Simpson of Oxford University, who leads UK participation in GLORIA.
The webcast will stream video and images from telescopes in places such as Australia, Japan, and Norway that will track the Sun and capture the planet's entire crossing. GLORIA is led by Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and involves 13 partners in eight countries around the world.
'The webcast is a great (and safe) way to watch the transit unfold, there will also be commentary and additional educational materials so people can learn more about the science behind this spectacle,' said Robert Simpson. 'There's also an opportunity for everyone to get involved: amateur astronomers can even contribute their own images of the transit to the GLORIA Flickr stream.'
The webcasting will be divided into three parts: there will be live video coverage for the first 30 minutes, the central 10 minutes, and the final 30 minutes. The rest of the time images of the transit will be updated every five minutes. All the images will be made available for use in educational activities.
As part of celebrations of the transit in Oxford a lecture, 'Exploring the Distant Universe', will take place on Saturday 2 June.