Image of the Week: Transit of Venus
11 Jun 2012
While we may have had a cloudy view of the transit of Venus from the UK, the international Sun-watching spacecraft Hinode by-passed the cloud at an altitude of 600km and caught this stunning view of Venus entering the solar disc on 05 June.
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The transit of Venus captured by Hinode.
Credit: JAXA/NASA/ Lockheed Martin.
The transit of Venus is exciting to space based and ground based astronomers alike. Venus passing directly between the Sun and the Earth is a rare phenomenon. It occurs in pairs eight years apart only every 105 years. The next sighting won’t be until 2117.
Astronomers watch out for the planet showing as a dark spot in the Sun’s surface. Events like this are more than visual displays, they also give us a glimpse into how the solar system is made up. When Astronomers first observed the aureole in 1761, an arc of light seen around the planet’s disc during the first and last minutes of the transit, they discovered that Venus has an atmosphere. The data from astronomers and space-based observatories, like Hinode, will help exoplanet scientists study the atmospheres of rocky Earth-sized planets outside of our Solar System.
Hinode is an international mission to study the connections of the Sun's surface magnetism, primarily in and around sunspots. The UK were involved in developing Hinode, alongside JAXA and NASA. A team at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory led the development of one of the three instruments on board the space craft with investment from the Science and Technology Facilities Council.