Looking up - 2012's astro-tourism hotspots

Astro-tourism is becoming increasingly big business - identified as a World Travel Trend last year by Euromonitor ahead of the World Travel Market and already worth millions to places such as Hawaii, Chile and Australia.

Next year is set to be a stellar one for spacewatching, one company predicted this week, thanks to the spectacular the Transit of Venus, a 'twice in a lifetime' event where Venus passes in between the sun and the Earth.

Nicholas Whitfield of space tourism firm Astro Trails told Relaxnews he believes the transit's rarity (after next year, it won't occur until 2117) will make it the biggest event of the year, although there are several other highlights for those thinking about taking a space-themed break. Here's a list of the astro-tourism events not to be missed in 2012.

1) Transit of Venus, June

Venus crossing the face of the Sun is an exceptionally rare occasion - the last time was in 2004, but if you miss next year's you'll have to wait until 2117.
Place to watch: Hawaii, USA

2) Annular Solar Eclipse, May

Annular eclipses happen every couple of years, causing the sun to look like a ring in the sky, although this will be the first of the century in the continental USA.
Place to watch: China, Japan, US West Coast, Canada

3) Total Solar Eclipse, November

The sudden darkness of a total solar eclipse is rare, although it's pretty difficult to miss if you happen to be in the right place. Getting a good view of the sun's faint corona is a one-in-a-lifetime experience.
Place to watch: Northern Australia

4) Lunar Eclipse, June

The moon will turn red for some astronomers in June, when the Earth's shadow passes over it.
Place to watch: Australia

5) Geminids Meteor Shower, December

Up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour will be streaking through a dark sky during December, peaking from December 13-14.
Place to watch: Northern hemisphere

Additional data provided by specialist tour operator Astro Trails - http://www.astro-trails.com

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