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.

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Source: BBC News

Image: National Geographic

Syria Extends Arab League Observer Mission

Syria has extended the Arab League monitors’ mission for one month, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi told CNN Tuesday.

This comes after the league voted Sunday to extend the mission. Syrian media quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying the mission will last until February 22. Foreign Minister Walid Moallem sent a letter to Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby notifying him of Syria’s agreement to the extension.

The six nations from the Gulf Cooperation Council withdrew their observers because of continuing bloodshed in Syria and the government’s “lack of commitment” to adhere fully to the plan it agreed to with the Arab League. The bloc includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Saudi Arabia decided to pull out its monitors Sunday and the other countries followed Tuesday.

A draft U.N. resolution on Syria obtained Tuesday by CNN calls on “all states” to take steps similar to those taken by the Arab League last November, when it imposed sanctions on Syrian authorities. The 22-member Arab League has called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to stop violence against civilians, to free political detainees, to remove tanks and weapons from cities, and to allow outsiders — including the international news media — to travel freely in Syria.

El-Araby and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Jasem Al Hamad sent a letter to the United Nations Tuesday requesting a meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the league’s proposed national unity government for Syria, according to an Arab League official. The official asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak with the media.

 

Source: CNN

Image: IBN Live