Next week will be the last opportunity this century to see the planet Venus as a little black dot moving across the solar disk–a rare event with a long, important history in astronomy
The planet Mercury transited the sun on November 8, 2006. This image shows a sunspot at bottom with the smaller silhouette of Mercury to its right; the limb of the sun is noticeably darkened. The image was taken from Haleakala, Hawaii, with a Nikon 500-millimeter telephoto lens on a Nikon D200 camera through a Thousand Oaks Optical solar filter.
The upcoming transit of Venus will be visible on June 5 in the Americas and on June 6 in Europe and Asia. This map shows the timing of the contacts: first contact is the initial touch of Venus and the sun as seen from Earth; second contact is when Venus is just inside the sun’s disk; third contact is when Venus is about to leave the disk; and fourth contact is the final separation of Venus and the sun.
Jeremiah Horrox made a drawing of the December 4, 1639, transit of Venus, which was later reproduced in this form in Johannes Hevelius’s 1662 book on the previous year’s transit of Mercury. Horrox, in Much Hoole, England, and his friend William Crabtree, in Manchester, were the only observers who saw this transit.
Jay M. Pasachoff’s personal collection of historic astronomy books
The most recent transit of Venus occurred on June 8, 2004. This image was taken from the observatory of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, with a Nikon 500-millimeter telephoto lens on a Nikon D100 camera through a Thousand Oaks Optical solar filter. Simultaneous observations made with the observatory’s 20-centimeter-diameter refracting telescope were coordinated with observations from spacecraft.
NASA’s Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) spacecraft captured this series of images of the 2004 transit over an approximately 20-minute period. The images clearly show the emergence of Venus’s atmosphere and that brightness varied along the arc of atmosphere, corresponding with different latitudes on Venus. The image is in false color and has been processed to draw out certain features of the transit.