Unless you were born yesterday, you’ll probably never see another transit of Venus. Only seven of them have been observed and the next is in 2117.
Here are some beautiful images to celebrate the moment ten years ago today when, on June 5, 2012, it was possible to see the second rock of the Sun passing in front of him seen from the third rock of the Sun.
A transit of Venus through the Sun occurs when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth. It can be seen as a small black dot moving across the face of the Sun. During the transit, Venus had an apparent diameter of almost 58 arcseconds, or about 3% of the apparent diameter of the Sun.
A transit of Venus occurs twice in eight years and then not at all for 105 years. The last time this happened was June 5/6, 2012 and the next time will be December 10/11, 2117. It will be followed by another on December 8, 2125.
Since it is only observable on the day side of the planet, a transit of Venus can therefore be a once-in-a-lifetime or even a twice-in-a-lifetime event. Or it can happen exactly zero times in a person’s lifetime.
Thus, the transit of Venus in 2012 was a massive event for an entire generation of skywatchers and nature lovers, especially those who missed the 2004 event. Crowds gathered at observatories around the world, sunscreens in hand, hoping to catch a glimpse of the majestic event.
It was largely a Pacific event, visible across New Zealand, Japan and large parts of Australia and East Asia as well as the most northwestern parts of North America. IT was also glimpsed in the morning in Europe.
Some of the best views were above the clouds on one of the largest volcanoes in the world. “I went to Mauna Kea in Hawaii because it was one of the best places to see the whole transit, which centered on the Pacific Ocean,” said Tom Kersastronomer and author of The squirrel who looked at the stars. “About 300 to 400 people were gathering at the visitor center, which is 9,500 feet above sea level.”
It was a poetic place to observe such a powerful and fleeting event. “I remember thinking that Venus was the most volcanic world in the solar system and I was there on one of the biggest volcanoes of all,” Kerss said. “A Venus transit is the closest our planet can ever get to another planet. For one beautiful moment, I could almost imagine seeing another volcano on Venus pointing at me.
Kerss was 26 at the time. He will be 131 at the time of the next transit of Venus. He took the fabulous image featured at the very top of this article, which also shows significant solar activity during Venus’ transit.
Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei was the first to predict that a transit of Venus would occur. He was born and died between two periods of transit, so he never witnessed it.
From Earth, only two planets can be seen crossing the solar disk: Venus and Mercury, the inner or “lower” planets. The outer planets only appear to pass behind the Sun from Earth’s perspective.
Mercury’s last transit was on November 11, 2019, and it will next occur on November 13, 2032. They are more frequent, occurring approximately 13 times per century. Venus is five times the diameter of Mercury, so a transit of Venus is much more dramatic than a transit of Mercury.
The transit method is primarily how astronomers find exoplanets. from NASA Kepler Space Telescope observed nearly 200,000 stars in a small patch of sky between 2009 and 2018, looking for a slight dip in starlight as planets passed through their host stars.
Kepler found a whopping 2,392 exoplanets this way. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is now doing the same and some believe it could find up to 12,519 new expoplanets by 2024.
It is possible to see transits of other planets, although you cannot see an Earth transit through the sun unless you are on Mars or further away. The following earth transit seen from Mars will take place on November 10, 2084.
Perhaps humans will see this one from a Martian base 33 years before Venus makes an upcoming trip across the face of the Sun.
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.
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