Stunning Timelapse: Spacecraft Capture the Transit of Venus

by Nancy Atkinson on June 6, 2012

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Here’s the entire 7-hour transit of Venus across the face of the Sun – shown in several views — in just 39 seconds, as seen by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 5, 2012. This view is in the 171 Angstrom wavelength, so note also the the bright active region in the northern solar hemisphere as Venus passes over, with beautiful coronal loops visible. The transit produced a silhouette of Venus on the Sun that no one alive today will likely see again. With its specialized instruments SDO’s high-definition view from space provides a solar spectacular!

Scott Wiessinger from NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio wrote this morning to tell us, “If you have the space and the bandwidth, I really recommend downloading this large file on the SVS to view. YouTube compression is hard on solar footage, so it looks even better when you watch it at true full quality.”

Below is a composite image from SDO of Venus’ path across the Sun, as well as another great timelapse view from ESA’s PROBA-2 microsatellite:

SDO's Ultra-high Definition View of 2012 Venus Transit -- Path Sequence. Credit: NASA/SDO

This movie shows the transit of Venus as seen from SWAP, a Belgian solar imager onboard ESA’s PROBA2 microsatellite. SWAP, watching the Sun in EUV light, observes Venus as a small, black circle, obscuring the EUV light emitted from the solar outer atmosphere – the corona – from 19:45UT onwards (seen on the running timer on the video). At 22:16UT – Venus started its transit of the solar disk.

Venus appears to wobble thanks to the slight up-down motion of Proba-2 and the large distance between the satellite and the Sun.

The bright dots all over the image, looking almost like a snow storm, are energetic particles hitting the SWAP detector when PROBA2 crosses the South Atlantic Anomaly, a region where the protection of the Earth magnetic field against space radiation is known to be weaker.

And as if the Sun is just showing off, a Coronal Mass Ejection is visible as well towards the end of the video, seen as a big, dim inverted-U-shape moving away from the Sun towards the bottom-right corner. This is a coronal mass ejection bursting out from the Sun.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Chandrashekhar June 6, 2012 at 1:18 PM

brilliant!!

bugzzz June 6, 2012 at 6:17 PM

that’s friggin’ excellent. wow.

VincentFrank67 June 6, 2012 at 6:30 PM

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jamesradical June 7, 2012 at 12:39 AM

The most boring astronomical event of the century. Now can we go for a beer?

William June 7, 2012 at 6:42 AM

Black drop? What black drop?

Teranodon June 7, 2012 at 7:44 AM

I don’t get it about the up-down “wobble” on the PROBA2 images. Can someone please explain? Thanks.

Teranodon June 7, 2012 at 2:43 PM

Never mind – I figured it out. PROBA2 is in a roughly circular, roughly polar orbit with an apogee of some 700 kms. Combined with Venus being roughly 75% of the way from the Sun to the Earth, plus the Sun’s diameter being 1.4×10^6kms, gives a projected up and down motion of about 1/40th of the Sun’s diameter, whic looks about right.

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