Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Transit of Venus

Missed the Transit of Venus yesterday (June 5th)?  Chances are you kept hearing about Scott Walker and not so much about this moment that only happens twice in a century every 105 years.

First of all, what is a Transit of Venus? 

A transit of Venus is like an Eclipse where Venus gets right in front of Earth and the Sun so we can see a little circle going by the sun.  Too small to even really be noticeable much.

Wait, twice in a century every 105 years?  How does that work? 

Well, Venus and Earth are both rotating around the sun constantly.  In 2004 there was a moment when earth was in front of Venus while Venus was in front of the Sun.  Eight years later this happens again in 2012.  However, this timing wont happen again for another 105 years.

Even though Earth and Venus are both going around the sun constantly, they don't go in exactly the same way, Venus travels around the sun at a different incline than earth.  There are only two spots in the rotation where we could actually see this happen.

If we lived in a 2D world, this would be happening every 1.6 years, but since again Venus is in a different incline then most of the time it is either above the sun or below the sun.   Also these times when Venus and earth meet are not always in the exact same spot, each time they are a little bit off.

In 2004 Venus and Earth both met in a place that where Venus would be right in front of Earth and behind the Sun.  Eight years later (June 5th 2012) it happens again but at a little bit different spot in the rotation as last time.  So 8 years from now, when it would have happened again, it will be once again at a different spot and by then Venus will no longer be right in front anymore.  So that's why it wont happen again for another 105 years.

Who cares? 

Well, life is short, you should appreciate the things you can live that no one else born today will be able to.  But the Transit of Venus has actually been quite useful for us humans.  It is how we discovered just how far Earth is from the Sun.  Scientists all over the world were looking at it over 100 years ago gathering data trying to figure it out.  And they did.  This was attempted over 100 years before then, but their data was inconclusive so we had to wait the 105 years for it to happen again.

Today we don't care as much because we have Satellites that give us the information we need, but it's still one of those things that shows just how perfect the universe is that we can actually predict such a thing will happen 105 years from now.

So even if you missed it, at least be aware that it happened, and go on youtube and check out some of the videos.  Personally I tried taking pictures but I just didn't have the right equipment so I couldn't get anything good.  Taking pictures of the sun without the right equipment = fail.

Javier Torres