The Rare Venus Transit
NASA joined the world today in viewing a rare celestial
event, one not seen by any person now alive. The "Venus transit" -- the apparent
crossing of our planetary neighbor in front of the Sun -- was captured from
the unique perspective of NASA's Sun-observing TRACE spacecraft.
image shows Venus on the eastern limb of the Sun. The faint ring around the
planet comes from the scattering of its atmosphere, which allows some sunlight
to show around the edge of the otherwise dark planetary disk. The faint glow
on the disk is an effect of the TRACE telescope. The bottom left image is in the ultraviolet, and the bottom right image is in the extreme ultraviolet.
The last "Venus transit" occurred more than a century ago, in 1882, and was
used to compute the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Scientists with NASA's
Kepler mission hope to discover Earth-like planets outside our solar system
by searching for transits of other stars by planets that might be orbiting
If people miss the June 8 Venus transit, they will have another
chance in 2012 (June 6). After that, there will not be another Venus transit
until 2117 (December 11).
Image credit: NASA/LMSAL
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