The Venus transit, which will last for nearly seven hours and will look like the sun is being punctured by a small black dot, occurs when Venus crosses between the Sun and the Earth. The last transit took place in 2004, and we won't see another until 2117.
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It will be visible from the ground in most of the world except for western Africa, southeastern South America, Portugal and parts of Spain, according to NASA. In North and South America, the transit will be visible on Tuesday afternoon and evening, while Europe, Africa, the Middle East and western and central Asia will see the transit on Wednesday morning.
It is never safe to look at the Sun without the proper eye protection, so click here for some tips about how to safely view the transit of Venus.
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NASA LIVE STREAM:
06/06/2012 3:54 PM EDT
Up Close And Personal NASA Video
Here is one amazing extreme closeup video of Venus as it began its transit across the sun [yesterday]. (It takes a while to load but is well worth the wait.) The telescope that took this image is a space telescope operated by NASA called Solar Dynamics Observatory. It's a false-color image taken in a kind of light that's invisible to the human eye -- but still has a very cool name -- called "extreme ultra violet." EUV for short. The kind of EUV light this video captures (at a wavelength of 304 Angstroms or 0.000003 cm) represents a signature emission from helium plasma. And there's lots of helium plasma at the surface of the sun. But lots of other light from farther-out plasmas in the corona that aren't very bright at all at 0.00003 cm.
So as a result we get a crisp image of the sun's "surface" revealing all the plasma boiling and roiling just at the edge of the fireball. And there is the planet Venus, appearing to float just above it. Of course, Venus is doing no such thing in reality. Today is just another extremely hot day on the Venusian surface -- 67 million miles away from the sun.
I am intrigued by the fact that as Venus crosses over into the solar disk, some of the light appears to creep in front of the planet. You can even see a ghost image of some of the solar activity behind Venus's shadow. My guess, without knowing the SDO telescope's particulars, is that illusion reveals A) an artifact of the SDO camera with pixels bleeding their signals over into the black pixels taken up by Venus's image and/or B) some of the sun's light refracting around Venus and producing a ghost image inside the otherwise black shadow of Venus.
Any astronomers or engineers familiar with SDO here please chime in!
-- Mark Anderson
06/05/2012 10:17 PM EDT
Watching From Canada
06/05/2012 10:14 PM EDT
Examining The Data
Over three and a half hours into the transit of Venus and outside the JCMT the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii is dotted by members of the public who have traveled up to observe the transit of Venus from the sacred mountain. Our interest in the transit is reminiscent of the invite astronomers were extended by King David Kalakaua in 1874.
Inside the JCMT building it is all quiet as the data is examined in real time. What we observe is the molecular 'thumbprint' by molecules such as carbon monoxide that absorb the Sun's energy in the atmosphere. It is hoped that observations of different molecules in the atmosphere of Venus will help astronomers understand extreme daily variations in temperatures that drive the strong winds in the planetary atmosphere.
--Harriet Parsons, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope
06/05/2012 9:53 PM EDT
Students Line Up
About 100 people stood in line this afternoon to see Venus' transit of the Sun at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Manning the telescope on the left is Physics and Astronomy Professor David Mitchell. Photo by Brian P. Lawler
06/05/2012 9:38 PM EDT
My colleagues and I attending a Mars orbiter workshop got rained out for Venus transit viewing in Seattle. Rain in Seattle! What a surprise! We've been enjoying the view on the internet, however, from NASA TV and the many other sites live streaming the event.
Such a glorious sight to see our sister planet in silhouette against our closest star. Next time, hopefully I'll take in the view from space!
--from Dr. Jim Bell, Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
06/05/2012 9:25 PM EDT
Fascinating 'Transit' History
Venus curio: The Mason-Dixon line -- marking a symbolic dividing line in the U.S. to this day -- is an artifact of the Venus transit. In 1760 the 32-year-old astronomer Charles Mason worked at the Greenwich Royal Observatory. Mason was a kind of mathematical prodigy and whiz-kid. His boss, the Astronomer Royal of England, picked out Mason to serve as observer on an upcoming 1761 Venus transit mission to Sumatra. (At the time the Venus transit was the best way to discover the fundamental number in astronomy -- the distance to the sun, or the "Astronomical Unit.") Mason's wife had just died the year before, so he hastily made plans to have his two young sons cared for in his absence. The British Royal Society paired Mason up with 27-year-old Jeremiah Dixon, a talented surveyor (who had also just been kicked out of his Quaker congregation for drinking too much). So Mason and Dixon first became a team to observe the 1761 Venus transit. Their voyage was almost a disaster, too. A French frigate almost sank Mason and Dixon's ship en route. But they made it to a fallback location in South Africa, collected spectacular Venus transit observations and so impressed the Royal Society that they re-hired the pair to survey a disputed border between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the American colonies. So the Mason-Dixon line was born. And Mason & Dixon remain legendary figures to this day -- with everything from a Mark Knopfler song ("Sailing to Philadelphia") to a Thomas Pynchon novel re-telling their incredible story.
--from Mark Anderson, author of "The Day the World Discovered the Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Global Race to Track the Transit of Venus"
06/05/2012 9:08 PM EDT
Video From SDO
06/05/2012 8:43 PM EDT
Image Of Transit From NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)
06/05/2012 8:34 PM EDT
Latest From James Clerk Maxwell Telescope
Our observers are happy with the data that has been collected so far. They are excited that this data will allow for a different way of studying the winds on Venus, but the data is yet to be fully reduced and examined. Opperationally the telescope-the 15-m JCMT- is working fantastically we had a minor hardware problem but our telescope opperator and our support staff have meant that minimal time has been lost. Between selecting molecules, such as and positions to observe we have been enjoying viewing the transit from the front platform of the JCMT. I will ask them if there might be a 'nice spectrum' to send you, with some information on what it means. We have a web came pointed in the control room so you can keep and eye on us working:
06/05/2012 8:09 PM EDT
Here's The Path Venus Is Taking