May 29, 2012

SandBoxBlogs: Steamboat Today "Jimmy Westlake: Don’t miss rare transit of Venus"

Jimmy Westlake:
"“By far the noblest (sight) astronomy affords.”

That’s how Sir Edmund Halley of Halley’s Comet fame described one of nature’s rarest astronomical events — a transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun. You won’t want to miss the only chance in your lifetime to see this noble sight on June 5.

In centuries past, transits of both Venus and Mercury were important events because astronomers could use the timings to estimate the sizes of these planets and their distances from Earth. Nowadays, these sizes and distances are well established. Modern astronomers search for the transits of undiscovered planets in front of other distant stars. Studying transits in our own solar system helps them know what to look for when observing distant suns.

In effect, a transit is a miniature version of an annular eclipse of the sun, with Venus rather than the moon crossing the sun’s face. Even more rare than the once-every-76-year passages of Mr. Halley’s comet, transits of Venus occur in pairs separated by more than a century. The two transits in each pair are eight years apart. There were no transits of Venus in the 20th century, with the previous pair happening in 1874 and 1882....."  (Read more?  Click title)

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