Once in a lifetime: Transit of Venus puts on spectacular show for the last time until 2117
My Idea by Dr.Hari Muraleedharan
Stargazers from across the globe gathered together to watch one of the rarest astronomical spectacles today.
From the U.S. and UK to South Korea, people around the world turned their attention to the daytime sky to make sure they caught the planet Venus passing directly between the sun and Earth - a transit that won't occur again for another 105 years.
The transit of Venus happens in pairs eight years apart - but then with more than a century between cycles.
During the pass, Venus appears as a small, dark round spot moving across the face of the sun, like a bug on a dinner plate.
Enthralling: Venus is silhouetted as it crosses in front of the sun as it sets behind the Kansas City, Missouri skyline on Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Planet Venus is seen as a black dot as it transits across the Sun during sunrise in Sofia, Bulgaria on June 6, 2012
The transit of Venus taken from Burton Dassett between Stratford Upon Avon and Banbury, UK
Venus is seen transiting across the Sun on June 6, 2012 outside Sarajevo
The planet Venus passes in front of the Sun as seen during the sunrise behind the Bratislava Castle in Bratislava, Slovakia, 06 June 2012
'If you can see the mole on Cindy Crawford's face, you can see Venus,' Van Webster, a member of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, told anyone who stopped by his telescope for a peek on Mount Hollywood.
For astronomers, the transit wasn't just a rare planetary spectacle. It was also one of those events they hoped would spark curiosity about the universe and our place in it.
Sul Ah Chim, a researcher at the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute in South Korea, said he hoped people see life from a larger perspective, and 'not get caught up in their small, everyday problems.'
'When you think about it from the context of the universe, 105 years is a very short period of time and the Earth is only a small, pale blue spot,' he said.
While astronomers used the latest technology to document the transit, American astronaut Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station attempted to take the clearest-ever photos of the event and post them online.
A composite sequence photo of the steps of the entire transit of Venus seen over the sky of Seoul, South Korea, 6 June 2012
Dramatic: This image provided by NASA shows the Solar Dynamic Observatory's ultra-high definition view of Venus on it's transit, an event which will not occur for another 105 years
Impressive: This image provided by NASA shows the Solar Dynamic Observatory's ultra-high definition view of Venus, black dot at top center, passing in front of the sun on Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Bright: This is just one frame of an astonishing short video put online by NASA of Venus passing the sun
Monumental: The planet Venus passes in front of the sun as it begins to set behind the Goddess of Liberty atop the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, left, and near the KCPL building in downtown Kansas City, Mo, right
Scene: A view of the Sun as the planet Venus passes in between the Sun and the Earth in New York, New York, USA, 05 June 2012
Meanwhile, terrestrial stargazers were warned to only look at the celestial event with a properly filtered telescope or cardboard eclipse glasses. If the sun is viewed directly, permanent eye damage could result.
In Los Angeles, throngs jammed Mount Hollywood where the Griffith Observatory rolled out the red carpet for Venus. The last time the city witnessed a Venus transit was 130 years ago in 1882. A 2004 transit was not visible from the western U.S.
Telescopes with special filters were set up next to the lawn and people took turns peering at the sun before and during the transit. Astronomers and volunteers lectured about the rarity of a Venus pass to anyone who would listen.
Minutes before Venus first touched the outer edge of the sun, Sousa's 'Transit Of Venus March' blared through. The crowd turned their attention skyward. For nearly 18 minutes, Venus appeared as a black spot.
Jamie Jetton took the day off from work to bring her two nephews, six and 11, visiting from Arizona to the observatory. Sporting eclipse glasses, it took a little while before they spotted Venus.
'I'm still having fun. It's an experience. It's something we'll talk about for the rest of our lives,' she said.
The transit of Venus taken from Burton Dassett between Stratford Upon Avon and Banbury, UK - Venus has made a spectacular transit across the sun in a rare event that wont be witnesse again for over a hundred years
Venus crosses the sun from an observation point in Pakistan on June 6, 2012
Worldwide fascination: The planet Venus makes its transit across the Sun as seen from Kathmandu on June 6, 2012
Morning breaks: An observer looks through a telescope during sunrise in Vienna
Mesmerising: Spectators at Edgewater Park in Cleveland watch the sun set as the planet Venus crosses the upper right portion of the star, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
The U.S.: The planet Venus makes a transit as a person watches the sun set over the Great Salt Lake outside Salt Lake City, Utah, June 5, 2012
Bo Tan, a 32-year-old software engineer took a half day off from work and went with his co-workers to the observatory. He admitted he wasn't an astronomy buff but could not miss this opportunity.
HOW NASA WILL USE THE MOON AS A TELESCOPE
During the transit of Venus across the sun's face, the Hubble Space Telescope looked in the opposite direction - at the moon.
Hubble cannot look at the sun directly due to the intensity of the sun's light, so astronomers are planning to use the images of the moon as a mirror to capture reflected sunlight.
They will then isolate the small fraction of the light that passes through Venus's atmosphere.
Imprinted on that light are the fingerprints of the planet's atmospheric makeup. This is an experiment to see how well Venus's atmosphere can be studied spectroscopically, which will help prepare us for transit observations of extrasolar planets.
He pointed his eclipse glasses at the sun and steadied his Nikon camera behind it to snap pictures. 'It makes you feel like a small speck in the universe,' he said.
In Mexico, at least 100 people lined up two hours early to view the event through telescopes or one of the 150 special viewing glasses on hand, officials said. Observation points were also set up at a dozen locations.
Venus, which is extremely hot, is one of Earth's two neighbors and is so close in size to our planet that scientists at times call them near-twins. During the transit, it will appear as a small dot.
This will be the seventh transit visible since German astronomer Johannes Kepler first predicted the phenomenon in the 17th century. Because of the shape and speed of Venus' orbit around the sun and its relationship to Earth's annual trip, transits occur in pairs separated by more than a century.
It's nowhere near as dramatic and awe-inspiring as a total solar eclipse, which sweeps a shadow across the Earth, but there will be six more of those this decade.
In Hawaii, hundreds of tourists and locals passed through an area of Waikiki Beach where the University of Hawaii set up eight telescopes and two large screens showing webcasts of the transit as seen from telescopes at volcanoes on other Hawaiian islands.
But minutes after Venus crossed into the sun's path, clouds rolled overhead and blocked the direct view.
'It's always the challenge of being in Hawaii - are you going to be able to see through the clouds,' said Greg Mansker, 49, of Pearl City, as he stood in line at a telescope.
The intermittent clouds didn't stop people from looking up through filters, but it did drive some to crowd the screens instead.
Spectacular: The planet Venus can be seen on its transit of the Sun, from Beijing
Last-in-a-lifetime: In this photo made using a red filter, Venus begins to pass in front of the sun, as visible from from Overland Park, Kan. on Tuesday
Impressive: A bird sits atop one of the domes of the landmark Taj Mahal as Venus, top left, begins to pass in front of the sun, as visible from Agra, India, Wednesday, June 6, 2012
The planet Venus makes its transit across the Sun as seen from Kathmandu
Venus is seen as a dot as it transits across the Sun on June 6, 2012 outside Sarajevo
Show: The planet Venus crosses the upper right portion of the sun as seen from Edgewater Park in Cleveland on Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Rarity: A view of the Sun as the planet Venus passes in between the Sun and the Earth in New York, New York, USA, 05 June 2012
Drawing near: In this handout image provided by NASA, the SDO satellite captures the approach of Venus before it transits across the face of the sun on June 5, 2012 from space
Rare: Handout image courtesy of NASA shows the planet Venus at the start of its transit of the Sun, June 5, 2012. One of the rarest astronomical events occurs on Tuesday and Wednesday when Venus passes directly between the sun and Earth, a transit that won't occur again until 2117
Jenny Kim, 39, of Honolulu, said she told her 11-year-old son the planet's crossing would be the only time he'd get to see the transit in person. 'I don't know what the future will be, so I think this will be good for him,' Kim said as she snapped photos of the webcast with her smartphone.
Astronomers also planned viewings at Pearl Harbor and Ko Olina.
NASA planned a watch party at its Goddard Visitor Center in Maryland with solar telescopes, 'Hubble-quality' images from its Solar Dynamics Observatory Mission and expert commentary and presentations.
Most people don't tend to gaze at the sun for long periods of time because it's painful and people instinctively look away. But there's the temptation to stare at it during sky shows like solar eclipses or transits of Venus.
The eye has a lens and if you stare at the sun, it concentrates sunlight on the retina and can burn a hole through it. It's similar to when you hold a magnifying glass under the blazing sun and light a piece of paper on fire.
It can take several hours for people to notice problems with their eyes but, by that time, the damage is done and, in some cases, irreversible.
Fascinated: Eight-year-old Alex Olling smiles as he uses makeshift sunglasses to watch Venus crossing the sun's face on June 5, 2012 as seen from College Park, Maryland
Stunned: A man uses a sun observation glass to watch the transit of Venus across the face of the sun on June 5, 2012, in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia
Curious: People use solar glasses to view the transit of Venus across the face of the sun on June 5, 2012 from Riverside Park on the west side of Manhattan in New York
Technique: Astronomer Raminder Samra attempts to get the view of Venus crossing the Sun using a shadow on a piece of paper and the telescope at the MacMillan Southam Observatory in Vancouver, British Columbia June 5, 2012
Preparation: Hong Kong stargazers use a special telescope to observe the transit of Venus along the Victoria Habour
During the 1970 solar eclipse visible from the eastern U.S., 145 burns of the retina were reported, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Experts from Hong Kong's Space Museum and local astronomical groups were organizing a viewing Wednesday outside the museum's building on the Kowloon waterfront overlooking the southern Chinese city's famed Victoria Harbor.
The transit is happening during a 6-hour, 40-minute span that began just after 6 p.m. EDT in the United States. What you can see and for how long depends on what the sun's doing in your region during that exact window, and the weather.
Those in most areas of North and Central America will see the start of the transit until the sun sets, while those in western Asia, the eastern half of Africa and most of Europe will catch the transit's end once the sun comes up.
Hawaii, Alaska, eastern Australia and eastern Asia including Japan, North and South Korea and eastern China will get the whole show since the entire transit will happen during daylight in those regions.
Spectacle: Venus begins to pass in front of the sun, as visible from New York, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Vision: Venus, upper right, transits the sun as seen through a dark glass from Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Sight: Venus (top, R) crosses the sun's face as seen from Havana on June 5, 2012
Special: The small black dot seen at the top right of the sun is the planet Venus, as it transits across the face of the sun Tuesday, June 5, 2012, as seen from Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach, Va
See video of the transit here:
FROM CAPTAIN COOK TO NASA: HOW VENUS HAS WATCHED US TRANSIT INTO AN AGE OF SCIENCE
From sea adventurer to space explorer: NASA explorer Don Pettit will follow a prestigious list of travellers who turned their eyes upwards to follow the transit throughout history
In 1768, when James Cook sailed out of Plymouth harbor to observe the Transit of Venus in Tahiti, the trip was tantamount to a voyage through space.
The remote island had just been 'discovered' a year earlier, and by all accounts it was as strange and alien to Europeans as the stars themselves.
Cook's pinpoint navigation to Tahiti and his subsequent observations of Venus crossing the South Pacific sun in 1769 have inspired explorers for centuries.
High above Earth, astronaut Don Pettit is preparing to photograph the June 5th Transit of Venus from space itself.
'I've been planning this for a while,' says Pettit, who serves as Flight Engineer onboard the International Space Station. 'I knew the Transit of Venus would occur during my rotation, so I brought a solar filter with me when my expedition left for the ISS in December 2011.'
Because transits of Venus come in pairs that occur once every 100 years or so, humans have rarely had the chance to photograph the apparition from Earth, much less from Earth orbit.
The view from space: Expedition 31 astronauts will view the transit from the hub of the ISS
'The Expedition 31 crew will be the first people in history to see a Venus transit from space, and Pettit will be the first to photograph one,' says Mario Runco, Jr. of the Johnson Space Center (JSC).
Runco, an astronaut himself who flew aboard three shuttle missions, is an expert in the optics of spacecraft windows. Along with his wife Susan Runco, who is the coordinator for astronaut photography at JSC, Mario is helping Pettit gather the best possible images of the transit.
Pettit will be pointing his camera through the side windows of the space station's cupola, an ESA-built observatory module that provides a wide-angle view of Earth and the cosmos. Its seven windows are used by the crew to operate the station's robotic arm, coordinate space dockings, and take science-grade photos of the Earth and sky. It's also a favorite 'hangout' for off-duty astronauts who find the view exhilarating.
'For this transit, Don will be removing the non-optical quality, internal protective window panes known as 'scratch panes,' which really make crisp, sharp, and clear images impossible,' says Runco. 'Removing those panes is a huge plus when it comes to details that will be seen in the imagery of the sun.'
Pettit describes the camera system: 'I'll be using a high-end Nikon D2Xs camera and an 800mm lens with a full-aperture white light solar filter.'
'Even with this great camera system, the images would be quite soft if the scratch panes were not removed,' notes Runco. 'This is only the third time that we'll be [shooting through] the Cupola's optical quality windows. I'm hoping this becomes routine in the future.'
This month's transit is the bookend of a 2004-2012 pair. Astronauts were onboard the ISS in 2004, but they did not see the transit, mainly because they had no solar filters onboard. Tiny Venus covers a small fraction of the solar disk, so the sun is still painfully bright to the human eye even at mid-transit. Pettit's foresight to bring a solar filter with him makes all the difference.
How would Cook feel about all this?
'I don't think James Cook should be too envious,' says Runco. 'After all, he did get an all-expense paid trip to Tahiti out of the deal.'
Don's photos will be posted to the web during the transit beginning on June 5, 2012 through-out the transit
Click here to view Don's photos on Flickr.
Images and information courtesy of NASA
HOW THE TRANSIT OF VENUS ANSWERED THE MOST PRESSING ASTRONOMICAL QUESTIONS IN HISTORY
Visionary: Edmond Halley, a member of The Royal Society, predicted that on June 6, 1761, Venus would traverse the burning disc of the sun for about six hours
For centuries, Venus held the key to the most pressing astronomical quest of the age: the size of the solar system.
In 1716, British astronomer Edmond Halley had called upon scientists to unite in a project spanning the entire globe. He predicted that on June 6, 1761, Venus would traverse the burning disc of the sun for about six hours.
If several people at different locations across the globe measured and timed this celestial rendezvous, they could calculate the distance between Earth and sun: the base unit for all distances in the solar system and the holy grail of astronomy.
The only problem was that transits of Venus only occur in pairs, eight years apart, but with an interval of more than a century before they are seen again. After this year, the next transit is not until December 2117.
When Halley asked his international colleagues to rally, only one transit had ever been observed.
Knowing he would not be alive to orchestrate this global cooperation – a fact he lamented ‘even on his deathbed’ while holding a glass of wine – all he could do was place his trust in future generations.
His gauntlet was taken up when hundreds of astronomers joined the transit project in the 1760s.
At a time when it took six days to travel from London to Newcastle, dozens of them travelled to remote outposts of the world to observe the phenomenon, laden with clocks, huge telescopes and other instruments.
Many risked their lives. With the Seven Years’ War tearing Europe apart, they were even sent into war zones.
They made for strange adventurers: most of their lives were an endless round of dull routine, spending nights under the open sky or engaging in complex computations.
The scientific world was electrified. The observations were the most ambitious scientific project ever planned, because the astronomers needed to watch the transit simultaneously from both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Venus’s path would be shorter or longer across the sun according to each viewing station. With the help of relatively simple trigonometry, the distance between sun and Earth could be calculated, but only if the astronomers shared their results afterwards.
The expeditions were organised by the scientific societies of Europe including the Royal Society in London. They sent Nevil Maskelyne, later Astronomer Royal, to St Helena – a lone speck of land in the South Atlantic.
With him he took an assistant, trunks full of instruments and more than 100 gallons of wine and rum.
Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, later famed for the Mason-Dixon Line, left Britain for Sumatra, but within four days they were attacked by a French warship.
The two refused to continue but the Royal Society threatened they would be prosecuted as mutineers ‘with the utmost Severity of Law’ unless they pressed on.
Even Captain James Cook got involved, taking the Endeavour into the uncharted emptiness of the South Pacific
Some astronomers waded waist-deep through icy rivers; others saw their ships wrecked by tropical storms. On the day of the transit, June 6, 1761, about 250 official observers at more than 100 locations pointed their telescopes to the sky.
But instead of swiftly moving across the sun, Venus lingered at the edge for up to a minute, making exact timing impossible.
They had one more chance, on June 3, 1769. Once again astronomers were dispatched across the world. Catherine the Great mounted eight expeditions across the vast Russian empire.
Astronomers from Britain, Austria, Switzerland and Russia travelled to the Arctic, where their brandy froze and clocks stopped.
The British even sent Captain James Cook and the Endeavour into the uncharted emptiness of the South Pacific to follow the transit from Tahiti.
Five astronomers died and many more faced unimaginable hardship. One French scientist travelled thousands of miles, facing bloody battles, dysentery and hurricanes only to be defeated by clouds.
When he returned home after 11 years, he had twice failed to see the transit, his heirs had declared him dead and divided up his estate, and he had lost his job.
It took years to collect the global data, but eventually the distance between Earth and sun was determined within a range of 92,900,000 to 96,900,000 miles – very close to today’s figure of 92,960,000 miles.
Impressive, but even more importantly, it was the beginning of international scientific collaboration - and an important landmark in scientific history, when astronomers faced enemy attacks, deadly diseases and all kinds of adverse conditions when they united to measure the heavens.
MydeaMedia -DR.Hari Muraleedharan @ 2012