6 June 2012

The Transit of Venus in Pictures

One of the rarest sights in the sky took place last night and early this morning – the Transit of Venus.  It began just after 6 in the evening in North America and was visible to most as a tiny black dot - unlike this extraordinary image from NASA Goddard.

Seen above in Ultra High Definition, this rare event (which your grandchildren might see if they live to a good age) happens when the planet crosses directly in the path between the Sun and Earth, becoming observable against the solar disk.

Above, the transit seen from Albuquerque in New Mexico and Romeoville, Illinois. The past decade has seen something of a renaissance in popular interest in astronomy and this event has given both experts and amateurs alike an opportunity to capture this amazing phenomenon. Here we present photographs from the experts (NASA) and ordinary people – in an extraordinary collection of images.

Somewhat obscured from view in Starkville, Mississippi, and again the same in Maharashtra in India, the planet Venus looks tiny as it crosses the surface even though it is the size of the earth.  Clouds will always be a problem for both amateur and professional observers. The view of many eclipses have been blighted by too much cloud cover - yet despite the weather the photographers above manage to capture the moment wonderfully.

Huntington and Long Beaches in California, and two shots which most photographers could not have resisted.

A number of techniques were used to capture the moment. This was taken in hydrogen alpha narrowband.

These shots were taken in Houston, Texas and Barcelona in Spain. Venus is sometimes called our ‘evil twin’ as conditions on the Venus could not be more different. If life exists there it is, to coin a phrase, not as we know it. Although it once had oceans all its water evaporated in to its atmosphere. It is now believed that is microscopic life evolved and persisted on Venus then this is where it may be.

The US space agency NASA has given us the best possible views of the event through high-resolution images taken from its Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), both in orbit around the Earth.

NASA has also given us an idea what the event must have looked like from deep in space with these two remarkable artist's impressions.

The images are taken from this remarkable animation from NASA.

Washington DC and again cloud obscured the best views (top) as they did in Germany (the shot with the wind turbines). Yet only six transits have ever been recorded as having been observed - in 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882 and most recently in 2004 and so a little cloud is the least of our worries. This is because the transit is invisible to the naked eye and so without magnification, the event went unobserved, even though it has taken place 53 times between 2000 BCE and 2004.

Dave Malkoff in Los Angeles managed to get this great shot of Venus on a Wire. Yet many amateur astronomers in the world over were disappointed. In many places it was cloudy with no sun visible. However, with the data collected from around the world it is hoped that this remarkable event will help in the search for planets around distance stars which could support life.

If you have missed it this time, perhaps these pictures will make up.  Otherwise you might want to consider suspended animation. The next transit of Venus will not take place until 2117.

NASA Goddard Photo and Video Photostream