Transit of Venus

And now it’s about less than an hour to the start of that rare celestial event. Only 6 transits of Venus are observed so far. And today whoever is able to record any kind of observation, will be making the history!

Now it’s well known, that this is the second and last transit of Venus in 21st century.

The history tells us that in the 17th and 18th century real astronomical observations started on the basis of mathematics. (Still mystery for me how did they make visual observations and math? Well, I shouldn’t get into it now.) Johaness Kepler first predicted the years of Venus transits as 1631, 1761. Later he was corrected and the first time human being observed this phenomenon on 4th December 1639. In next centuries transits were observed regularly. Till 19th century many legendaries were marked in the history for their efforts of observing events. Among them two touched me – Captain James Cook, FRS. Other one is French astronomer Guillaume Le Gentil who  spent eight years travelling in an attempt to observe either of two transits in 18th century but was not successful.

In earlier observations, scientists came up with their calculations of distances between the earth and the sun. In subsequent events results were corrected and refined. In modern era 2004 most powerful techniques answered the black-drop effect as optical illusion. Also principle of this phenomenon is used to find the planets rotating around the stars far away from us in the distant galaxies.

I see significant change between last and this transit.

Internet in 2004 was not that penetrated as of now. I have been reading about the Transit of Venus from past several weeks on the internet, whereas during last event the print media was dominating source for the information. Social networking sites and outreach programs arranged by various research institutes, amateurs and of course TV, print media have given needed glamour to this event like never before. So this time news updates from top astronomical organizations spread across the globe now are easily available. Within few minutes the science behind it can be understood, videos are playing important role in outreach programs. Details of viewing the event for every corner on earth are readily available.

In India outreach activities of amateurs and research institutes in spreading awareness and giving away basic knowledge are appreciable. Use of regional language makes it easier convey the message. Many reputed observatories in India are going to webcast the live event! But we still lag behind westerns countries in publishing study materials to encourage the people to work on math and intermediate level science.

Telescopes are now available in programs open for public in most of the cities. Digital equipments such as cameras and GPS are going to be crucial instruments in recording observations which are very common in general public. Educated individuals have knowledge and equipments as well, so today’s event is going to be remarkable.

High-tech Observations

Press release ESA – Venus Express is in orbit around the planet Venus, it will not notice any difference while the transit is being observed from Earth. But the spacecraft will be watching the Sun setting through the atmosphere of Venus, and its data will be compared to measurements made at the Earth at the same time. Hinode will be watching the transit in visible, X-ray, and ultraviolet wavelengths to study phenomena such as the ’black drop effect’ – the small black teardrop shape that appears to connect Venus to the limb of the Sun just after it has fully entered the solar disc and again later, when it begins to leave the disc.

Hubble Space Telescope press release – astronomers are planning to point the telescope at Earth’s moon, using it as a mirror to capture reflected sunlight and isolate the small fraction of the light that passes through Venus’s atmosphere. Imprinted on that small amount of light are the fingerprints of the planet’s atmospheric makeup.

Most interesting of all, flight engineer aboard Don Pettit is going to photograph the transit from ISS! As reported by NASA Science, Don carried the solar filter to ISS when he took off from the earth in Dec11. 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. 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.”


1882, quote by William Harkness of the U.S. Naval Observatory (S&T, Feb. 1995) “There will be no other [transit of Venus] till the twenty-first century of our era has dawned upon the earth, and the June flowers are blooming in 2004. When the last transit occurred the intellectual world was awakening from the slumber of ages, and that wondrous scientific activity which has led to our present advanced knowledge was just beginning. What will be the state of science when the next transit season arrives God only knows.”

Thick Clouds over Pune. Bad luck. Not sure if I could even get glimpse of the sun. Its raining. I missed taking photographs 😦

So called Pandit astrologer on Aaj Tak TV channel was relating FDI, crime with this celestial event. 😦

Transit of Venus 2012: Muana Kea, Hawaii

Solar Dynamics Observatory

Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory

Be prepared on the evening of 9th may, 2016 for Transit of Mercury. Visible from Pune!


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