Venus Transit Treasure
The majesty of these images lies in the vast gulf in size between the earth-size planet and the ferociously burning star that gives us life. Makes you humble to realize just how small and powerless we truly are
Venus Transit Treasure
If you ever doubted the ferocious power and size of the sun, then the Transits of Venus, which always happen in pairs eight years apart, occurring four times in approximately 243 years, separated by either around 105 or 121 years, Venus appearing as a small, dark round spot moving across the face of the sun, a speck in a fiery storm.
The long intervals are down to the orbits of Venus and Earth being in different planes, transits only happening when both planets and the Sun are situated exactly on one line, a scenario occurring only seven times since 1631, and now not again before 2117 and 2125.
This once-in-a-lifetime transit really brings home to humanity just how ordinary the sun is - just another star, circled by planets, much like untold numbers of stars in other galaxies elsewhere in o the universe. The 5th June transit began 22.09 GMT, lasting around six hours and a half hours minutes.
Astronomers - amateur and professional, were out in droves on all seven continents, Asia to Antarctica, to try to see all or part of the Venus transit, through solar filters which protect the eyes from burn-out. Live video and pictures were all across the web, from space- and ground-based observatories and even the International Space Station.
This views were not, however, all about stunning shots, but serious scientific experiments took place, hopefully helping in the search for habitable exo-planets, adding to the vast store of knowledge accumulated by NASA's Kepler space telescope - being used to find planets that pass in front of their parent stars just as Venus did.
Astronomers will be able to measure the thick atmosphere of Venus during the transit using that data to help develop techniques for measuring planetary atmospheres. Perhaps also, these studies could shed light on why Earth and Venus - almost exactly the same size and in similar orbits at similar distances ended up such complete opposites.
With a 100X denser atmosphere than Earth - mostly CO2 - Venus enjoys surface temperatures of 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Towering clouds of sulphuric acid racing at 220mph douse the planet with acid rain all the time, a scenario so brutal that any human transported there would be crushed, suffocated, desiccated, and possibly even set on fire.
This incredibly rare event helped scientists check whether or not the techniques used to measure planetary atmosphere are working well, and how they can be improved upon. For me though, the majesty of these images lies in the vast gulf in size between the earth-size planet and the ferociously burning star that gives us life. Makes you humble to realize just how small and powerless we truly are.