Venus’ Transits Through History

Venus passing into the disk of the Sun during the 2004 transit. Credit: NASA

In a matter of hours, lucky observers with clear skies will be able to watch Venus pass in front of the Sun. Transits of Venus are rare – this is the last one until 2117 – but that’s not the only reason you should find a way to watch it. This astronomical event is historically very significant. Since the 17th century astronomers have used Venus transits to better understand the Universe and our place within in, and the upcoming transit doesn’t break this centuries-old tradition.

Over the course of astronomy’s history, Venus transits have shaped and given size to our Solar System. Now, transits are helping us understand our place in the Universe relative not only to other planets and stars but to other possible worlds and life forms. Read my full article on the historical significance of Venus transits on Scientific American’s Guest Blog. Context, I firmly believe, gives us all a much greater appreciation for a cosmic event on such a huge scale.

Comments

  1. Stu Young says

    I just happened to catch the Video File on NASA TV this past Weds. night (I was stuck at the office past 10:00 p.m., and needed some background sound to remind me that there’s a whole universe outside of a psychiatric hospital). There were some amazing videos of the Venus transit, taken from the ISS, in multiple wavelengths. The visible spectrum was the least interesting; some of the other wavelengths were gorgeous, showing the seething “texture” of the sun and of the corona. Just indescribably beautiful, at least to me! There’s got to be a link to them on the nasa.gov website.

    -Stu Young

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