Venus Transit Rare And Exciting For Scientists
The planet Venus will be passing in front of the sun today for the eigth time in recorded telescopic history, and scientists are hoping to learn more about the planet from its silhouette.
The transit of Venus happens four times every 243 years with pairs of the event seperated by eight years every 105 or 121 years.
The last seven sightings occured in 1631, 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882, and 2004.
To see Venus passing in front of the sun, one has to look to the sky at 12:10 p.m. in Honolulu, 3:06 p.m. in Los Angeles, and 6:04 p.m. in New York on Tuesday, June 5th. On Wednesdy, the spectacle will visible at 5:37 a.m. in London, 6:38 a.m. in Beijing, and 8:16 a.m. in Sydney.
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The study of the transit of Venus has been a highly celebrated quest throughout history, with Captain James Cook's voyage to New Zealand and Australia being one such expedition.
The last sighting in 2004 revealed an arc of light around Venus when it appeared to touch the edges of the sun. The arc was created by the refraction of the sun's rays by Venus's atmosphere.
Venus and Earth are almost the same size, same distance from the sun, and both are made of similar materials. The difference lies in Venus's atmosphere. Venus has winds of up to 220 miles per hour and temperatures up to 900 degrees farenheit due to a heavy concentration of carbon dioxide.
Studying the arc of light created by Venus will allow scientists to further gather information about this atmosphere.
"Our models and tools cannot fully explain Venus, which means we lack the tools for understanding our own planet. Caring about Venus is caring about ourselves," says planetary scientist Thomas Widemann of the Observatoire de Paris.
Venus exhibits a phenomenon known as super-rotation where all the atmospheric air completes a full circle around the planet in just four days even though the planet completes its rotation every 243 days.
The studying of the atmosphere when planets pass in front of a star is a common practice used by astronomers.