Tag: Venus transit

Transit on the Midnight Sun

By Phil Plait | June 20, 2012 10:00 am

Because why not, I have two more Venus Transit shots to show you. Well, one picture and one quick time lapse video. I know it’s been a couple of weeks since the transit, but since today is the solstice, what the heck. And these are really special.

The first is a picture taken by friend-of-the-blog Babak Tafreshi, who founded and directs the wonderful project The World at Night, which shows people how lovely our skies are. He took several shots of the transit from Norway and put them together into this gorgeous composite photo:

[Click to ensolarnate, and you really need to; I had to shrink it quite a bit to fit the width of the blog.]

I love this shot, because…. he took it at midnight! From northern Norway in June the Sun doesn’t set; it skims the horizon at midnight, circling nearly parallel to it for a time. This coincided with the transit, making this one of the single most interesting sequences of the transit I’ve seen. I also like how the Sun went behind a hill there on the right, with Venus and a sunspot still peeking over the edge. Babak says he’s working on a time lapse video of the event too. [This picture was also on today’s APOD.]

Speaking of which, the second transit shot is a time lapse video sent to me by Mark Ellis (who took the pink aurora picture I posted yesterday). He took this sequence in Minneapolis as Venus crossed the Sun’s face:

Short, but neat! I also like the music; it was written by Mark’s son Ryan. It fits the feel of the video very well.

I love these time lapse videos of the transit. The Sun is setting due to the Earth spinning on its axis, and Venus transiting the Sun due to its orbital geometry combined with our own. I like to picture all that motion in my head as I watch Venus silhouetted on the setting Sun, imagining myself affixed to a spinning world whirling around a star with other attendant worlds, all of us in a constant and complicated dance, moving to the tune of gravity.

How wonderful it is that we can understand and appreciate this celestial clockwork!

Image credit: Babak Tafreshi/Dreamview.net/TWaN

Related Posts:

The June 2012 Transit of Venus Gallery
Astronomer’s paradise (and Making "Astronomer’s Paradise")
How could I NOT post this Venus transit picture?
Sic Transit, Glorious

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Towering transit of Venus

By Phil Plait | June 14, 2012 7:00 am

OK, look, I know I’ve posted a lot of Venus Transit pix, and it’s been a week now, so you have to know I wouldn’t post one this late unless it was really awesome.

I present to you really awesome… Part 1:

Wow! This was taken by friend-of-the-BABlog Alan Friedman. To shoot this video he used a filter that lets through light from hydrogen, and that shows lots of solar activity like sunspots and filaments. The video is a negative, which makes it easier to see faint details on the surface, and which makes Venus look white instead of black. But I like how he kept his telescope centered on the Sun as it set, so it looks like it’s the tower moving into the field of view instead of the usual shot of the horizon held steady while the Sun sets. Very cool.

[Update: For those asking about the tower, Alan sent me this photo to clear things up.]

But he did more than take video: he took his usual jaw-dropping, stunning, ridiculously cool photos as well, like this one… really awesome, Part 2:

[Click to ensolarnate.]

Yegads. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Venus orbital plane

By Phil Plait | June 10, 2012 7:03 am

Local (to me) photographer Patrick Cullis was filming the Venus Transit last week from Colorado, and got a surprise:

Pretty cool. That’s part of a longer video he made of the transit that’s nice, too.

While I’m at it, he made a really pretty time lapse of the sky over Boulder, including footage of Venus and Jupiter setting over the Flatiron mountains; it’s well worth a moment of your time to watch. You can see the moons of Jupiter, too!


The Flatirons are huge slabs of rock hundreds of meters high that used to be seabed, but were pushed nearly vertical when the Rocky Mountains broke through. They make a stunning backdrop to these videos by Patrick, too.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Interloper of the Venus Transit

By Phil Plait | June 7, 2012 9:39 am

I figured I was done posting Venus Transit pictures, but I should’ve realized I hadn’t heard from Thierry Legault yet. And as soon as I saw his name in my email Inbox this morning, and before I even opened it, I knew I’d have at least one more picture to show you.

And I was right. Thierry is a master astrophotographer, and he’s not one to just let an astronomical event go by without figuring out some way to make it even cooler. He traveled to northeast Australia to view the Venus transit… not just because it had a good view, but also because from there, he could see the Hubble Space Telescope transiting the Sun at the same time! On June 6th, at 01:42:25 UTC, he got this amazing shot:

Holy wow! [Click to doubletransitenate.]

You can see Venus as the big black circle, as well as dozens of sunspots. But you can also see multiple images of Hubble as it zipped across the Sun, circled in the image above. Orbiting the Earth, Hubble moves across the sky so quickly that it crossed the Sun in just under a second. Blasting his DSLR away at ten frames per second (and with an exposure time of only 1/8000th of a second per frame) Thierry managed to get 8 shots of Hubble silhouetted against the Sun.

Here’s a bit of a close-up:

I added the arrows to help you see Hubble. The orbiting telescope was about 750 kilometers (450 miles) away from Thierry when he took these pictures (it was not directly overhead), so details on Hubble are too small to capture, but it can be seen as a black dot.

Theirry’s done this before, too: in January 2011, he got an astonishing picture of the space station crossing the Sun during a partial solar eclipse! His ability to time these events and get pictures like these is nothing short of amazing.

He also says he got more pictures, too, including some of Venus just as it was entering the Sun’s face. Hopefully he’ll have those available soon! In the meantime, click the links below under Related Posts to see more of his ridiculously cool photos.

Image credit: Thierry Legault, used by permission.

Related Posts:

China’s space lab has a spot in the Sun
Doomed ROSAT captured in video
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SERIOUSLY jaw-dropping pictures of Endeavour and the ISS!
INSANELY awesome solar eclipse picture

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

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

Sic Transit, Glorious

By Phil Plait | June 6, 2012 10:44 am

This is what I’ve been waiting for: the stunning video views of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory of the Venus transit. Sit down, set this video to high-def, tune out everything else for 3 minutes 7 seconds, and soak in the clockwork glory of our solar system.

OK, you can breathe now. NASA has provided high-resolution versions for download, too.

SDO orbits the Earth about 40,000 kilometers (24,000 miles) above the surface of the Earth, with a nearly-continuous view of the Sun — so it had the best seat in the Universe for the transit. One of its most important tasks is to observe the Sun in ultraviolet, where our star’s magnetic activity is most obvious. The views in the video show the Sun different parts of the ultraviolet spectrum, colored to make them easier to see: magenta is at 1700 Angstroms (a unit of length astronomers like; 100 million Angstroms would comfortably fit across your fingernail), red is 304 Angstroms, and gold is 171 Angstroms. The orange segment is from the light we can see, about 3000 – 7000 Angstroms.

The Sun’s ethereal outer atmosphere, its corona, glows at at 171 and 304 Angstroms. In visible light the transit lasted about 7 hours, but in the UV it took longer since the silhouette of Venus can be seen against the softly luminous corona.

SDO was commanded to take images faster than usual, to provide as much coverage of the transit as possible, so the passage of the planet across the Sun is smooth and — I know, but it fits — other-worldly.

And I can’t help but think about a sad milestone today: one of America’s — one of the world’s — greatest writers, Ray Bradbury, has died. Among his many works was "The Long Rain", a short story which took place on Venus. It had a huge impact on me when I first read it as a kid, and it still makes me think about human nature, space exploration, and what happens when we mix the two.

Bradbury was more than a writer, he was a poet, and his works inspired generations of people to look beyond the borders of our world while still considering our humanity. We all must go someday, and for him to do so on the eve of the last transit of Venus to be seen for over a century is, somehow, fitting.

Ray Bradbury knew that no matter where we are, whether we are looking down into the water of another world, or looking up into the skies, what we are always seeing is a reflection of ourselves.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Credit: NASA/SDO

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

The June 2012 Transit of Venus Gallery

By Phil Plait | June 6, 2012 5:30 am

MORE ABOUT: Sun, Venus, Venus transit

Venus Transit LIVE

By Phil Plait | June 5, 2012 3:19 pm

The last Venus Transit for 105 years is happening in a few minutes as I write this — it goes from roughly 22:00 June 5 to 05:00 June 6 UTC (check your local listings).

Fraser Cain, Nicole Gugliucci, Pamela Gay, and I are hosting a live video chat of the transit with many amateur astronomers across the world! I am embedding it below:

If you want to participate in the chat room, you need to 1) be signed up for Google+, b) circle Fraser Cain, and γ) go to the live video chat post.

[UPDATE (21:55 UTC): First view of Venus silhouetted against the Sun’s corona are coming in!

This shot is in the far-ultraviolet, where the Sun’s thin atmosphere, called the corona, glows. You can see the Sun on the right, and Venus — which is dark in the UV — is the dark circle on the left. Amazing. Credit: NASA/SDO]

For more info, you can read my lengthy post with a ton of info, or watch my interview with Cara Santa Maria on the Huffington Post. I also have a nifty video made up of images taken of the 1882 transit, too!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff
MORE ABOUT: Google+, Venus transit

Your last chance to see Venus for the next few weeks

By Phil Plait | May 26, 2012 7:00 am

As I usually do when I go outside at twilight, I glanced over to the west to look for Venus… and it was much lower toward the horizon than I was expecting. I shouldn’t have been surprised; in two weeks it’s due for a close encounter with the Sun. On June 5/6, it’ll pass directly between us and the Sun in an event called a transit. I’ll have more info on that later, though you can read up about it at the Transit of Venus website.

I set up my binoculars and even with such low power, Venus was an obvious crescent! I held my phone up to the eyepiece and took this shot:

It’s out of focus a bit, but you can see the phase. As Venus races past the Earth in its orbit, it gets a bit closer to us but presents a thinner crescent every day. It’s moving so quickly now that you only really have a few more days to take a look before it’s too close to the Sun to see comfortably. And then on June 5th it’ll look a lot different!

Related Posts:

Venus rounds the corner
It’s just a phase

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Venus, Venus transit

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