How could I NOT post this Venus transit picture?

By Phil Plait | June 6, 2012 2:31 pm

I wasn’t going to post another Venus Transit shot, because my mousing arm still hurts from putting together the gallery for this morning.

But holy geez, I saw this, and c’mon!

I mean, seriously. Wow. [Click to cythereanate.]

This image of Venus as it entered the Sun’s disk was taken by the NASA/JAXA (Japanese space agency) spacecraft Hinode on June 5. The detail is breathtaking. The ring around Venus is due to scattering and refraction — light from the Sun passes through the upper part of the Venusian atmosphere and gets bent toward us. You can also see some texture on the Sun’s surface (really packets of hot gas rising and cool gas sinking) and some nice prominences off the Sun’s limb — material lifted against the Sun’s massive gravity by its equally ridiculously strong magnetic field.

That’s a whole planet there, folks, nearly the same size as Earth, roughly 40 million kilometers (25 million miles) from Earth, back lit by a star 110 million km (70 million miles) farther away yet and well over 100 times bigger than Venus!

And we knew about it, predicted it, aimed our machines at it, and observed it so we can learn more and see more beauty. The things we humans do when inspired by the Universe. Amazing.

Image credit: JAXA/NASA/Lockheed Martin

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, NASA, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Hinode, Sun, Venus, Venus transit

Comments (51)

  1. Chris Perley

    I believe a “Holy Haleakala!!!” is in order.

    That’s fantastic! ~Slightly~ better than the photo I took with my zoom lens. 😉

  2. Oyvind Walle

    Okay is it a perspective thing that makes it look like Venus is that close to the sun?

  3. Bob

    This might be my favorite photo so far. Stunning. I met so many of my neighbors when I broke out my dusty ol’ telescope from high school to observe the transit–and they actually seemed to know something about if from the media. Doing something sciencey in public is great for bringing people together and inadvertently blinding them when they lunge for the eyepiece pointed at the sun. Do you have any sense of when the results Hubble moon observations could be known?


  4. CR

    Wow, that is soooo awesome! I noticed right away the Venusian atmosphere in this pic. That really makes the idea of this showing a planet, not just a featureless dot, stand out.

  5. Vifefan2112

    I didn’t know Gloria was sick!

  6. Richard

    Oh man, this is so bloody awesome!!! I really can’t get over it. Awe inspiring. I totally missed out on the event. Because as usual, it rained and was completely overcast. I had all my gear ready to be up and running by 5.30am but the NW-European weather spoiled it all. Thank God there are loads of people who were able to see it and post these incredible pictures on the Net! Thanks Phil!

  7. Jimmy

    Hi Phil,

    Can we see details on the surface of the planet due to the strong light? If not, what are those tiny ripples close to the edge of the planet?

    Amazing picture, thanks for sharing!

  8. Chris

    From Saturn there was a Venus transit on May 6, 2012 and another this December 21st (The Mayans knew!). I was wondering if Cassini could observe any intensity drop out there or maybe its instruments aren’t sensitive enough.

  9. Matt69

    Frelling, fraking, FREAKING awesome, man! _This_ is what was waiting for us when we looked over that first hill, aeons ago! And there are _still_ people who want to give up all this space-y explore-y type stuff!! (I just don’t get that.)

  10. Blaine Snow

    Beats all previous hi-res photos I’ve seen! Absolutely gorgeous.

  11. Chris

    Hehe, I do like that. I can just imagine the Mayans saying “what’s all this end of the world nonsense? We clearly calculated a transit of Venus as seen from Saturn. Morons”,

    CR: is that honestly the atmosphere on the right of Venus? I saw it too but just seemed almost too astonishingly brilliant to be true. I fear it’s an artifact or some other effect, but I hope not. Does anyone know 100%?

  12. This is truly amazing…….it is definitely one of the best I have seen…..feels like you could almost reach right out and touch it! Thanks for sharing…….

  13. This is truly amazing….it is definitely the best I have seen on the web…feels like you could almost reach right out and touch it….Thanks for sharing!!

  14. Sam H

    This is incredible.

    Does anyone else think of the movie “Sunshine” when they see this?? :)

  15. Steve Allen

    Can anyone give the metadata for this? It was almost certainly by the SOT, and I’ll give a guess that it was green continuum filter at 555 nm, but I’d love to know for sure.

  16. CoffeeCupContrails

    What’s with the slight overlap at 15 minute point – a bit of the Sun overlapping Venus there. Also, some feature ON Venus at 46 minutes in this photo.

    Both on the edge of the planet.

  17. With a 76mm refractor from the summit of Mauna Kea I saw the outer edge clearly in the minutes prior to second contact, light coming through the atmosphere of Venus. I was very thin, very faint, and very sharp… One of the most sublime views I have ever seen in my many years at the eyepiece.

    Yet the only photos I that show this effect seem to come from spacecraft?

  18. Mr. Fact Checker

    That’s 109 times the diameter and 1.3 MILLION times the volume. Definitely “bigger”. :-)

  19. kat wagner

    OK, this is really my most favorite shot too.

  20. Chris

    No doubt this is cool, and rare. But It’s not a pinch on a lot of the things you can see from your back garden with a half decent telescope.

  21. Lorena

    lovely pictures, that’s becoming my desktop background image 😀

    BTW I was just on 9gag and I saw this, I really liked it, is this really yours??? Because if so, I really want to translate it to spanish and post it on my facebook for those horoscope, homeophaty lovers out there 😀 😀

  22. Thank you for sharing. Wow.

  23. Lorena

    OMG SAM @comment 14!!! I just kept thinking about that movie Sunshine and about this scene gorgeus

    too bad I was in argentina and I couldnt watch it live, my telescope is broken anyway :( at least I got to watch some of it online, and first thing today I came here to look for pictures and videos. I posted them to facebook but since the transit was not visible here, nobody seems to care :( :( not much media coverage either.

  24. Messier Tidy Upper

    *WOW!!!* [ Picks jaw off floor, puts eyeballs back in.]

    Superluminous (beyond merely brilliant) image there alright. Whoah. 😀

    @2. Oyvind Walle : “Okay is it a perspective thing that makes it look like Venus is that close to the sun?”

    How close to our Sun does it look? 😉

    Venus is pretty much two thirds or 70% of the distance from our daytime star that Earth is – 108.21 million kilometers for Venus versus 149.60 million kilometres for Earth. *

    Yeah, I’d say its a perspective effect – but what a perspective effect! :-)


    Source : Page 15, ‘Stars and Planets’, Patrick Moore, Chancellor press, 1992.

  25. Sam H

    Just happened to find out that Ray Bradbury died while this was going on.

  26. flip

    Well, that’s depressing – I’ve been busy and missed out on the Venus transit… Why oh why do you have to make me jealous Phil? :)

  27. Dr.Sid

    Come on Phill .. point telescope on Venus is not that big step for humankind .. not these days.

  28. That is pretty darn amazing.

  29. @14 Sam H: Does anyone else think of the movie “Sunshine” when they see this??

    Hehe, I wondered the same thing. I guess I have my answer :)

  30. Does anyone know who builds these things or how they manage to take pics like this?

  31. Ken Coenen

    Spectacular somehow doesn’t do it justice!

  32. David P.

    Well, I cythereanated the photo, but it looked more like an aphroditeization afterward….

  33. Derek

    And we have a winner! WOW…

  34. @#7: I was wondering about those features on Venus’ right limb, too. I sorta doubt they’re actual surface features, as Venus has an extremely thick atmosphere. I was wondering, though, if they could be gaps in Venus’ upper cloud decks?
    The other explanation (probably more likely) is that they’re photographic blooming caused by particularly bright spots (er, “bright” being relative in this case) on the sun’s surface.

  35. Hey Phil,
    Can you explain the glow on the upper left side of Venus? Is that the atmosphere being lit by the sun or light bending around the planet or something else?

  36. W Sanders

    My guess for the detail along the RH limb of Venus is image compression artifacts. (which are visible in the dark part of the disk)

  37. “Click to cythereanate” – incredible; almose better than the picture.

    On an unrelated note, I really like this font.

  38. Once in a while I see things that are gut wrenchingly, sickeningly beautiful. Positively correlated when something exceeds my vocabulary. The closest thing I have to words is the sensation you get when watching HBO Game of Thrones and the clockwork sun passes high overhead at just the right musical moment. This so far is the closest I have got to The Total Perspective Vortex (HHGTTG / Zaphod Beeblebrox).

  39. Phil-Inn

    No matter how many times I enlarged this picture I just can’t get the other eye and the smile to show up

  40. Josh

    Amazing picture. Phil, you say things like, “I’m done posting pictures of (insert random planet/star/event).” Please do not keep beautiful pictures of science from us! I enjoy seeing any picture of whats outside of our planet even if I have already seen a million other pictures of the same celestial body. I am a star gazer who hopes to get in to amature astronomy and your blog is literally on the top of my favorites. I cant get enough it seems! Keep up the good work!

  41. Can anyone beat my dubious record, of having travelled approximately 6000 miles, to NOT see the ToV???
    As the prospects of seeing anything in the UK were abysmal, I travelled a long way east – to my favourite place in the Far East, namely the island of Phuket in Thailand. From there, the transit began before sunrise, but I should have been able to observe all but the first hour or so.
    It was a complete washout – literally! On the day, not only was I clouded out or rained off… the island was hit by a full-blown ****ing typhoon!!!!! I saw precisely nothing, and got very wet.
    “P****d off” doesn’t even come close…
    Thankfully, I did see the previous one in 2004.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar