Planet Venus Makes Rare Transit Across Sun

Planet Venus is putting on a show for skywatchers by moving across the face of the Sun as viewed from Earth. The transit is a very rare astronomical event that will not be seen again for another 105 years.

Observers in north and central America, and the northern-most parts of South America saw the transit begin just before local sunset. The far northwest of America, the Arctic, the western Pacific, and east Asia will witness the entire passage. The UK and Europe, the Middle East, and eastern African must wait for local sunrise to see the closing stages of the transit.


Venus appears as a small black dot moving slowly but surely across the solar disc. Many citizens keen to get a view of the transit themselves have been attending special events at universities and observatories where equipment for safe viewing has been set up. For others, internet streams have provided an easy way to follow Venus’s slow trek. Scientists have been observing the transit to test ideas that will help them probe Earth-like planets elsewhere in the galaxy, and to learn more about Venus itself and its complex atmosphere.

Venus transits occur four times in approximately 243 years; more precisely, they appear in pairs of events separated by about eight years and these pairs are separated by about 105 or 121 years. The reason for the long intervals lies in the fact that the orbits of Venus and Earth do not lie in the same plane and a transit can only occur if both planets and the Sun are situated exactly on one line.

This has happened only seven times in the telescopic age: in 1631, 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882 and 2004. Once the latest transit has passed, the next pair will not occur until 2117 and 2125.

Do you think the 2012 Transit of Venus is significant? Share your thoughts with us!

Source: BBC News

Image: National Geographic

James Cameron Succeeds in Mariana Trench Dive

Hollywood director James Cameron has returned to the surface after plunging nearly 11km (seven miles) down to the deepest place in the ocean, the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific.

He made the solo descent in a submarine called “Deepsea Challenger”, taking over two hours to reach the bottom. He spent more than three hours exploring the ocean floor, before a speedy ascent back to the surface. His craft was kitted out with cameras and lights so he could film the deep.

This is only the second manned expedition to the ocean’s deepest depths – the first took place in 1960. The earlier descent was made by US Navy Lt Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard. They spent about 20 minutes on the ocean floor but their landing kicked up silt, meaning their view was obscured.


The sub has so many lights and cameras that it is like an underwater TV studio – with Mr Cameron able to direct and film the action from within. He intends to release a documentary. It also has robotic arms, allowing him to collect samples of rocks and soils, and a team of researchers are working alongside the director to identify any new species. He says that science is key to his mission.

Google’s Eric Schmidt has helped to finance another sub being built by a US marine technology company called Doer Marine. They want this sub to carry two to three people, and are placing a heavy emphasis on science. And Triton submarines, a Florida-based submersible company, intends to build a sub with a giant glass sphere at its centrepiece to take tourists down to the deepest ocean for $250,000 a ticket.

Source: BBC News

Image: MSN