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Press release

Transit of venus

A series of free Darwin Centre Live events at
the Natural History Museum
Monday 7 to Friday 11 June

Webcast live at

For the first time in 121 years, Venus will pass directly between Earth and the sun, on 8 June this year. Far rarer than a solar or lunar eclipse, this six-hour event will have stargazers from around the world gripped as the small dark spot of Venus crosses the sun’s disc. Join scientists, astronomers and explorers in a series of free Darwin Centre Live events exploring the scientific, social and historical importance of this special phenomenon.

The Transit of Venus
Monday 7 June, 14.30

Join Natural History Museum cosmochemist Monica Grady and history of science researcher Bob Bloomfield to explore the science and history of this important planetary event.

The Transit of Venus – Live!
Tuesday 8 June, 11.30

Join Museum cosmochemist Monica Grady and history of science researcher Bob Bloomfield to watch and discuss this important planetary event live as it happens.

Venus Unveiled
Wednesday 9 June, 14.30 and Friday 11 June, 14.30

Join Museum planetary scientist Sara Russell as she unveils the geology of Venus and tell the story of some of the missions to explore the brightest planet in our skies.

Facts about the transit of Venus

  • Transits of Venus occur four times in every 243 years. There are two December transits, eight years apart, and then 121.5 years later there are two June transits, eight years apart. It is then another 105.5 years before the cycle starts again.
  • The next transit of Venus will occur in June 2012, but will not be visible from the UK as it will happen during our night. The next transit of Venus after that will occur in December 2117
  • The first recorded transit of Venus across the sun was in 1639 by Jeremiah Horrocks.
  • Measurements of the transit of Venus were used to calculate the Astronomical Unit (AU) – the average distance of the Earth from the sun.
  • Venus rotates once every 243 Earth days, but only takes 225 days to orbit the sun making a day on Venus longer than a year.
  • Because Venus rotates in the opposite direction to its orbit, the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.
  • The surface temperature of Venus is 450?C and the pressure is 90 times that of Earth, which is why probes sent to Venus can only survive a few hours.

Darwin Centre Live in the GlaxoSmithKline Studio at the Natural History Museum is a free programme of informal events where visitors can talk to scientists, hear more about their work at the Museum and around the world and see the fascinating specimens they work with. For further information, please contact the Natural History Museum by calling 020 7942 5000 or visit .

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Notes for Editors

  • It is very dangerous to look directly at the sun. The only totally safe way to watch the transit of Venus is by viewing it indirectly as a projection, for example by using a pinhole camera.

Visitor information
Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum,
Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD
Dates: Monday 7 to Friday 11 May
Public enquiries: 020 7942 5000
Nearest tube: South Kensington
Entry: free to all

The Natural History Museum is open Monday - Saturday 10.00-17.50, Sunday-11.00-17.50
The Natural History Museum's public enquiries telephone number is 020 7942 5000
The Museum is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs.
For access details telephone 020 7942 5000
Entry to the Museum: FREE

For images or further information, please contact:

Jo Glyde or Chloe Kembery, Science Communication PR
Tel: 020 7942 5880/5881
Website:  or
Email: or
(not for publication)

Issued May 2004