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Transit of Venus: How to photograph rare astronomical event

June 4, 2012 |  2:18 pm

People observe the solar eclipse on May 20 in Chico, Calif. This photograph was taken through a welder's glass.

How can you photograph the Transit of Venus, a rare astronomical sight that begins Tuesday afternoon?

Here’s a guide on how to take a snapshot the easy way. It's pretty much the same as taking a photo of the solar eclipse.

Transit of VenusIf you have a pair of special solar eclipse glasses designed for looking directly at the sun, you can aim your snapshot or smartphone camera lens through the dark lens filter and see if you can catch the black dot of Venus appearing to float across the surface of the Sun, according to the Reseda-based Rainbow Symphony store, which sells solar glasses.

The bigger your zoom, the bigger the sun will appear.

PHOTO GALLERY: Solar eclipse

A No. 14 welder’s glass fitted on a welder’s mask also makes for safe viewing. But be sure that the welder’s glass is indeed No. 14; that kind of glass is so dark that most welders don’t use it. No. 14 welder’s glass has been in short supply ever since solar eclipse frenzy gripped the world in May. The only safe filters block all but 0.003% of the visible light.

If you’re at an observatory or have access to a telescope equipped with a special solar filter, try placing your point-and-shoot camera over the viewing area.

You can also try reflecting the sun’s light through a pair of binoculars onto the sidewalk or a sheet of paper, and take a photo of the projected image of Venus’ dot moving across the sun.

For those with SLRs, camera stores do sell special lenses designed to safely photograph solar eclipses. Other sources on photographing the sun can be found at Nikon, MrEclipse.com, which is run by NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak, and Space.com.

Be sure to not to use your eyes or point your camera without protection, or you could damage both. If you do take a picture, tweet the photo to The Times with the tag #LAVenus and to @LANow.

The Transit of Venus begins just after 3 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, and ends less than seven hours later. It will be visible in much of the world except for southeast South America, western Africa, Portugal and Spain, which will be in darkness during the entire Transit of Venus. It is the last chance to view this rare astronomical alignment for 105 years.

The last time the sight was visible on Earth was in 2004, and hasn't been seen in Los Angeles since 1882.

Able to photograph the transit? Tweet it to us at @LANow and tag it with #LAVenus. You can upload photos to our website.


Transit of Venus 2012: How to view rare phenomenon

Children, young adults suffer most from eclipse blindness 

Transit of Venus: Solar eclipse glasses needed for safe viewing

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: People observe the solar eclipse on May 20 in Chico, Calif. This photograph was taken through a welder's glass. Credit: Jason Halley / Chico Enterprise-Record