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Blog

Venus as you’ve not seen it before

Transit of Venus 2012 from Lightcurve Films on Vimeo.

By Matin Durrani

You could be forgiven for thinking that we here at Physics World have a slightly obsession with that astronomical phenomenon known as the transit of Venus.

First we published a great feature by Jay Pasachoff that explained the science and history of this rare astronomical event, in which the planet Venus passes across the face of the Sun, as seen from the Earth. Pasachoff’s article appeared just before this year’s transit, which took place on 5 and 6 June, but the transits are so rare that the next one won’t occur until December 2117.

Then Physics World columnist Robert P Crease examined the question of whether the great Russian polymath Mikhail Lomonosov did – or did not – see the atmosphere of Venus during the 1761 transit. This piece was followed a few months later by Crease’s account of various attempts this summer to carry out historical recreations of Lomonosov’s work. (Crease’s conclusion: yes Lomonosov probably did see Venus’s atmosphere.)

We also ran a photo challenge on Flickr, where we invited you to send us your images of this year’s transit. You can see a selection of the best in this article here.

Anyway, now we’re happy to bring you the above video, which shows this year’s transit as seen from Svalbard (Norway, 78ºN) and Canberra (Australia, 35ºS) using images obtained by members of the European Space Astronomy Centre, just outside Madrid. Nothing beats seeing the transit for real (actually I’m ashamed to admit I was lying in bed when it occured although, to be fair, it was raining in Bristol at the time, but the above video is a pretty good next-best-thing.

And if you want to watch a quick overview of why the transit of Venus occurs, then check out Physics World‘s own video below, featuring Zoe Leinhardt from the University of Bristol.

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