If you were not born yesterday, you will probably never see another transit of Venus. Only seven of them have ever been observed and the next is 2117.
So here are some beautiful pictures to celebrate the moment a decade ago today when on June 5, 2012 it was possible to see the second stone from the sun pass in front of it seen from the third stone from the sun.
A transit of Venus over the sun occurs when the planet Venus passes directly between the sun and the earth. It can be seen as a small black dot moving across the face of the sun. During transit, Venus had an apparent diameter of almost 58 arcseconds, which is about 3% of the apparent diameter of the Sun.
A transit of Venus takes place twice in eight years, not at all in 105 years. The last time it happened was June 5, 2012 and the next time it happens is December 10, 2117. It will be followed by another one on December 8, 2125.
Given that it is only observable from the planet’s day side, a transit of Venus can therefore be an event once or twice in life. Or it can happen exactly zero times during a person’s lifetime.
So the 2012 transit of Venus was a massive event for an entire generation of sky-viewers and nature lovers, especially those who missed the 2004 events. Crowds gathered at observatories around the world, with sunscreens in hand, hoping for a glimpse of the majestic event.
It was largely a Pacific event, visible over New Zealand, Japan and large parts of Australia and East Asia as well as in the northwesternmost parts of North America. IT was even glimpsed in the morning in Europe.
Some of the best views were from above the clouds on one of the world’s largest volcanoes. “I went to Mauna Kea in Hawaii because it was one of the best places to see the whole transit, which was centered across the Pacific Ocean,” he said. Tom Kerssastronomer and author of The squirrel looking at the stars. “About 300 to 400 people gathered at the visitor center, which is 9,500 feet above sea level.”
It was a poetic place from which one could see such a powerful and fleeting event. “I remember thinking that Venus was the most volcanic world in the solar system and there I was on one of the largest volcanoes of all,” Kerss said. “A transit of Venus is the closest our planet can ever get to another planet. For a magnificent moment, I could almost imagine seeing another volcano on Venus point back at me.”
Kerss was 26 years old then. He will turn 131 when the next Venus transit arrives. He took the amazing picture shown at the top of this article, which also shows significant solar activity while Venus’ transit took place.
The Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei was the first person to predict that a transit of Venus would occur. He was born and died between two periods of transit, so he never actually witnessed one.
From Earth, it is only possible to see two planets traveling across the Sun’s disk – Venus and Mercury, the inner or “inferior” planets. The outer planets only seem to pass behind the sun from the Earth’s perspective.
The last transit of Mercury occurred on November 11, 2019 and it will take place next time on November 13, 2032. They are more common and occur about 13 times every century. Venus is five times the size 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. NASA: s Kepler Space Telescope observed nearly 200,000 stars in a small spot in the sky between 2009 and 2018, looking for a small dip in the starlight as the planets passed their host stars.
Kepler found as many as 2,392 exoplanets in this way. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is now doing the same thing and some believe it can find as many as 12,519 new expo planets in 2024.
It is possible to see transits from other planets, even if you can not see a transit of the earth over the sun if you are not on Mars or further out. Next earth transit seen from Mars will take place on November 10, 2084.
Perhaps humans will see it from a Mars base for a full 33 years before Venus next travels across the surface of the sun.
Wish you clear skies and big eyes.
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