There are stellar events which take place once in a lifetime. The arrival of Haley’s Comet, the alignment of three or more planets, and as of yesterday, the passage of Venus across the face of the Sun. According to astronomers, this event will not happen for another 105 years. So for those of us who lucky enough to see it, this really is a once in a lifetime event
News of this has junior astronomers scrambling to get a glimpse, and the web is already buzzing from the first photos to be uploaded. The one featured at top comes from the orbiting satellite known as the Solar Dynamics Observatory, courtesy of NASA, and is the first views of Venus passing in front of the Sun’s Corona. The second, featured below, is from the same satellite and is a close up of the planet as it begins to move across the face of the sun.
But by far the most impressive images come from NASA live’s feed which captured Venus’ early passage from the depths of space into the Sun’s corona. Captured with a AIA 171 wavelength channel (that’s 171 angstrom, extreme ultraviolet) one thing which really stands out are the coronal loops. These are the extended arcs which reach up from the surface of the Sun, where plasma moves along magnetic field lines. The brightest visible spots are the locations where the magnetic field s exceptionally strong near the surface.
This second video comes from NASA’s ESA SOHO spacecraft, which tracked the planets approach before SDO took over and began tracking it across the Sun. Images and feeds are still coming in and can be expected to do for some time. For those people in Hawaii, Alaska and South Korea, the view of the passage is expected to be ideal since it will coincide with their daylight hours. Those of us on this side of the world will just have to be content with what we can catch! I recommend everyone get out back with some protective eyewear – don’t stare directly into the Sun! – and see what they can see. Once in a lifetime people!