(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

 

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN

 

Astronomers are set to observe one of the rarest astronomical events in modern history — the Transit of Venus.

 

That’s when Venus passes between the Earth and the sun, appearing like a black dot across the solar disk. (Video source: NASA)

 

Although the transit isn’t as visually striking as May’s “Ring of Fire” eclipse, the Los Angeles Times points out Tuesday, June 5, is your last chance to see it.

 

“NASA helpfully notes that the next time it occurs, we will all be dead. Thanks for that, NASA. Truly, these transits are a twice-in-a-lifetime experience. They come in pairs a few years apart. The first in this pair was in 2004. The next transit is December 2117.”

 

The Transit of Venus has only happened six times since the telescope was invented, and each time it’s had a profound impact on scientists’ understanding of the solar system.

 

Take the 1760s transits for example. Scientists and explorers traveled the world to observe the transits from different locations. Thanks to those observations, astronomers were able for the first time to work out how far the Earth is from the sun and all the other planets. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Scientists plan to use Tuesday’s transit for scientific discovery, too, but this time it’ll be for learning about other solar systems. Using the Hubble Telescope, they’ll examine Venus’ atmosphere to discover what they already know. Confusing? The Christian Science Monitor explains.

 

“The transits of alien planets in front of their stars, from the point of view of Earth, are one of the key ways scientists discover such planets' existence. … Since scientists know quite a lot about Venus' atmosphere by now, they can use observations of its transit to calibrate their instruments and set a benchmark for studying the atmospheres of new planets beyond the solar system.”

 

The transit takes six hours, and only the Pacific region will be able to watch the whole thing. But NASA will be live-streaming the event, and has some advice for skywatchers.

 

“Observers on seven continents, even a sliver of Antarctica, will be able to see it. Across the United States, the transit is at its best around sunset — a rare photo opp for creative photographers.”

 

The usual warnings about not staring at the sun still apply. Astronomers recommend wearing either special eclipse glasses, #14 welders glass or using a pinhole projection.

Astronomers Prepare for Last Transit of Venus This Century

by Steven Sparkman
0
Transcript
Jun 3, 2012

Astronomers Prepare for Last Transit of Venus This Century

(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

 

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN

 

Astronomers are set to observe one of the rarest astronomical events in modern history — the Transit of Venus.

 

That’s when Venus passes between the Earth and the sun, appearing like a black dot across the solar disk. (Video source: NASA)

 

Although the transit isn’t as visually striking as May’s “Ring of Fire” eclipse, the Los Angeles Times points out Tuesday, June 5, is your last chance to see it.

 

“NASA helpfully notes that the next time it occurs, we will all be dead. Thanks for that, NASA. Truly, these transits are a twice-in-a-lifetime experience. They come in pairs a few years apart. The first in this pair was in 2004. The next transit is December 2117.”

 

The Transit of Venus has only happened six times since the telescope was invented, and each time it’s had a profound impact on scientists’ understanding of the solar system.

 

Take the 1760s transits for example. Scientists and explorers traveled the world to observe the transits from different locations. Thanks to those observations, astronomers were able for the first time to work out how far the Earth is from the sun and all the other planets. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Scientists plan to use Tuesday’s transit for scientific discovery, too, but this time it’ll be for learning about other solar systems. Using the Hubble Telescope, they’ll examine Venus’ atmosphere to discover what they already know. Confusing? The Christian Science Monitor explains.

 

“The transits of alien planets in front of their stars, from the point of view of Earth, are one of the key ways scientists discover such planets' existence. … Since scientists know quite a lot about Venus' atmosphere by now, they can use observations of its transit to calibrate their instruments and set a benchmark for studying the atmospheres of new planets beyond the solar system.”

 

The transit takes six hours, and only the Pacific region will be able to watch the whole thing. But NASA will be live-streaming the event, and has some advice for skywatchers.

 

“Observers on seven continents, even a sliver of Antarctica, will be able to see it. Across the United States, the transit is at its best around sunset — a rare photo opp for creative photographers.”

 

The usual warnings about not staring at the sun still apply. Astronomers recommend wearing either special eclipse glasses, #14 welders glass or using a pinhole projection.

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