05 June 2012

A "Last in a Lifetime" Event


On 05 June 2012, the planet Venus was in transit across the face of the sun. That is to say, its orbital path passed between the Earth and the Sun at a planar level where we could see its shadow.

The image above is from a live webcast from the NASA EDGE (link probably good until around 9:30 pm PDT) project at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. It was captured about an hour in to the event. (I have rotated the image 90° counter-clockwise, because I believe that is the orientation we would see from the Northern Hemisphere.) For a slightly different perspective, here is an image captured about 2 hours into the event, from the SLOOH Space Camera project via the observatory at the University of New Mexico.


Transits of Venus occur in pairs separated by about 8 years, once every 113 years or so. At least, that’s what I gathered from the information about the last two pairs, in 1761-69 and 1874-82. That’s why this is being described as “last in our lifetime”: only someone born very recently, say five years ago, has any decent chance of living to see the first transit of the next pair.

At any rate, if I have time, I may add another image later. I just wanted to preserve these images for my own perusal.

UPDATE As promised, here is an image from Norway as the transit was just about complete: