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Venus Transit 2012

Don't Miss This Chance...Or Wait for 2117
Rare Meeting With Our Neighbour!
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The event will begin at 10:09 p.m. UTC on Tuesday June 5, and finish at 04:49 a.m. UTC on Wednesday 6.
Time-lapse picture of Venus Transit

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, June 5-6, the world will witness a scientific event that won’t ever take place again until December 10th-11th, 2117, i.e after 105 years, according to NASA

Planet Venus, earth’s twin, will cross the disk of the sun in a unique event of historical, scientific and observational importance.

To the naked eye, planet Venus will be visible as a tiny silhouetted ball that no one alive today will likely see again.

According to NASA, Venus transit is a rare celestial phenomenon that takes place only when this planet reaches its closest approach from earth at 41 million km, and when both planetary orbital plains are at the same level.

Thus, transits of Venus occur on a repeated unique pattern every 243 years, and “mostly” in pairs separated by eight years, while each pair has intervals sequence of 105, 113, 121 and 129 years because of numerous celestial mechanics factors inside the stable and major 243-year cycle itself.

Our contemporary June transit is the bookend of the 2004-2012 pair.

To be witnessed all over the world, the event will begin at 10:09 p.m. UTC on Tuesday June 5, and will finish at 04:49 a.m. UTC on Wednesday the 6th.

Fortunately, the transit will be visible for the majority of people in the world, but the entire total transit event will be visible only in some parts and regions, such as central and western Pacific Ocean

The transit won’t be visible for people in most of countries in western Africa and South America.

Transits take place on all the eight solar planets, except Mercury which isn’t preceded by any planet orbiting between it and the sun. Interestingly, earth inhabitants will be able to see the more frequent Mercury transit in 2016, God willing.

mars-earth-venus
Venus is 95% the size of Earth.

Earth’s Twin

The ancient Egyptians made the first record of observing Planet Venus, with its name in the ancient Egyptian language is “Seba Bennu” which means “Phoenix Star”.

Venus is the second distant planet from the sun after Mercury, and it’s the closest planet to earth. However, it’s one of the deadliest and most inhospitable regions of our solar system.

Venusian volcanic activity and eruptions form dense clouds of sulfuric acid which is deadly to human beings and other living organisms. We don’t have to mention its unpleasant rotten egg-like smell either.

With the existence of such opaque clouds and turbid atmosphere we lost some missions there on the surface of this hellish planet due to the temperature which could melt lead, while other missions got crushed underneath the thickness of the planet’s heavy atmosphere before reaching its ultra-solid ground.

Now you could wonder and ask: Why then do we call it the “earth’s sister”, while it has such unbearable conditions for life?!

Well that’s a smart question, but let’s not be biased against that close neighbour. Nowadays Venus is different from its past days.

All of these hell-like conditions weren’t present on this planet four billions of years ago. On the contrary, it was much like current earth. Venus hosted liquid water on its surface and it was blessed with habitable conditions.

Today Venus could be considered the “Planet of Volcanoes” with over 1,600 major volcanic peaks spread all over its surface and even more than one million small ones cover around 65% of the planet’s ground.

Having an atmosphere composed of 96.5% Carbon Dioxide, this led to transforming the entire planet into a massive greenhouse in nearly 95% the size of earth. This greenhouse gas effect increased the regular temperature all over most of the planet’s regions to 464°C, according to NASA.

But being closer than the earth to the sun, and with the sun getting older, bigger and its luminosity increased by 25% since 3.8 billion years ago, Venus’s H2O and the carbon dioxide locked inside rocks started to evaporate and accumulate up, forming a dense cover of CO2 which converted the planet into a greenhouse, and this prevents sun-related heat from escaping to space like normal celestial bodies. Before this dramatic event, Venus was twice cooler than its present climatic conditions.

Day Longer Than Year & Sun Rises from West

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Real photograph of Venu's surface from the Soviet Venera 13 spacecraft. On the lower right side of the image you could see the probe's edge.

Venus has a strange characteristic that its days are longer than its years. This happens because it rotates around itself to make a day in a period equivalent to 243 earth days, while it orbits the sun to make a year in 224.7 e days.

Your watch on Venus won’t count 24 hours like it does on earth, but it records 2,802.0 hours.

Another weird characteristic on Venus is that the sun there rises from the west and sets in the east, in a start contrary to what we are used to on earth this is because Venus is the sole solar planet which orbits the sun in a clockwise motion unlike all other solar planets. Theories suggest that it started this retrograde orbit because the planet was originally formed in a clockwise solar nebula (gas cloud) and because of chaotic spin changes taken place as a result of perturbations and tidal effects in its orbit.

Transit, So What!

In the past, scientists benefited from Venus transit in estimating the exact size of our home, the solar system, which was one of the biggest mysteries in science.

Mikhail Lomonosov, the Russian polymath, made a good use of 1761’s Venus transit when he became the first person to discover our closest planet’s atmosphere. No one knew that our closest planet had an atmosphere at that time.

With the alerting signs of climate change and the global warming, the study of Venus’s climate is playing a major role in developing our atmospheric sciences and improving our climatology understanding of what’s occurring on earth and what the future holds for us on this planet, since climate directly affects agriculture, hence economy and therefore the existence of world population initially.

Studying the transit phenomenon and calculating whether we expected its occurrence accurately or not also helps us verify our ability to predict celestial orbits and factors of celestial mechanics in outer space. We depend on such studies in launching satellites, space probes and other equipments we put in orbit around earth.

Similarly, transits help us calibrate our universal timing, leading to benefits in Global Positioning System (GPS) fields by accurately connecting artificial satellites in orbit to GPS terrestrial stations located on Earth.

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An image showing the 8-year pentagonal cycle of Venus Transit. In one 243-year Venus Transit cycle there are two pair spaced 121.5 ±8 years apart. Although the transits currently occur in pairs, this is not always the case, sometimes there is only one transit.

This means that the continuous observation of transits could prevent you one day from getting lost.

Furthermore, studying the history of transits and calculating the cycles of modern and future ones give us clues about specific dates and certain historical events we’d like to calculate. For example, drawings on Ancient Egyptian walls and in discovered papyrus documents depicting constellations and celestial events help archeologists and historians to identify important dates of wars, deaths, and crownings.

Additionally, by studying Venus, particularly during its closest approach to us, astronomers and scientists will be able to strengthen human knowledge concerning the new trend in space science of exploring Extrasolar Planets, a trend that allowed us to discover habitable Earth-like celestial bodies, in addition to planets wholly formed of minerals such as diamond, and with even fictional abundance of rare metals which could benefit the humanity in the future.

How to Observe Venus Transit

Use your sunglasses for quick 15-second glimpses at maximum to look at the solar disk in order to avoid its temporary-blinding glare.

Other useful methods could be using projection techniques like Hipparchus’s one of projecting the sun’s image on a white sheet by passing the sunlight from a narrow tube to a covered space; for example a dark room or a roofed white wall.

You could instead buy a solar filter or eclipse glasses for a long and continuous observance.

Unlike solar eclipse, Venus transit doesn’t have the eye-damaging phase of the total solar eclipse, which is called “Diamond Ring Effect”.

The Diamond Ring Effect causes blindness because during solar eclipse sunlight entering your eyes decreases due to occultation happening to the sun disk by the Moon, which makes the eye pupil widen its diameter to let in more light. But while looking at the Sun’s corona or during the sudden flash light of the Diamond Ring Effect, the eye pupil gets high intensity of light than needed while being widely opened, which causes the retina to be burnt to blindness without giving any indication of pain to the spinal cord because the retina doesn’t have pain fibers.

However, the best way to witness this rare transit is to use any solar telescope with a CCD camera set up to observe the sun and Venus. And this is what I’m gonna do with my friends tomorrow, God willing.

Have a nice watch.
venus_transit_world_map

In the upper region C; the transit will be totally visible but the sun will set during the maximum transit and rise again. While on the contrary, in the lower region D; the transit won't be visible at all except for a short period of time when the sun rises during the maximum transit and then sets again.

References

Tony Phillips. The 2012 Transit of Venus. NASA. May 24, 2012.

Crown Copyright hmnao@ukho.gov.uk. Transits of Venus. HM Nautical Almanac Office. 2008.

ESA's Venus Express Mission.

Brian Dunbar & Shelley Canright. The Planet Venus. NASA. April 3, 2004.

David R. Williams. Venus Fact Sheet. NASA. November 17, 2010.

Jerry Coffey. What is the Closest Planet to Earth? Universe Today. May 21, 2008.

Tammy Plotner. Venus’ Variable Evolution. Universe Today. April 2, 2008.

James Thiemann. Venus, Earth & Mars. NASA. 2004.

Astronomy News. Seasky Sky News.

Transit of Venus.org

Fred Espenak & Robert Candey. Catalog of Venus Transits. NASA. February 24, 2012.

David Shortt. Some Details About Transits of Venus. The Planetary Society. May 2012.

Nick Anthony Fiorenza. The Venus Transits The Pentagonal Cycle of Venus. 2003.

Related Links:
Pondering God's Creation in Nature Through Science
Space Traveling Rocks
The Largest Structure in the Universe
The Closest Neighbor to our Milky Way Galaxy
The Beauty of Eyesight
Islam is the Assistant Editor of the Health & Science Section of OnIslam.net. He studied Biology as a major and he's an Administrative Member in The Astronomical Society of Mahmoud Mosque (ASMM), Egypt. He achieved a Postgraduate Diploma in Anthropology from The Institute of African Researches & Studies, Cairo University.

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