Transit of Venus – resources from Spain

A TRANSIT IS THE CROSSING of a planet or any star in front of the Sun. Mercury and Venus are the only planets of the Solar System that can make transits, because they are closer to the Sun than the Earth.

On 5-6 June the transit of the planet Venus across the Sun will take place. Researchers from the Department of Astronomy and Meteorology (DAM) of the University of Barcelona (UB) will live broadcast the phenomenon from the Svalbard Islands, in the Arctic, through the website Serviastro

On this occasion, the UB has developed the web page Venus 2012, where specific information on this transit will be accessible, together with a series of activities on astronomical distances which have been made available to school centres, and a comic on the history of the transits of Venus by Josep Manel Carrasco can also be found there (only in Spanish and Catalan).

The transits of Venus occur twice over intervals of eight years, with then a gap of more than 100 years until the next pair. Hence, the last transit of Venus took place in 2004 and the next one will happen in 2117.

The UB will monitor the transit of Venus from the Svalbard Islands because it is one of the places where the entire transit will be visible and where the Sun never sets at this time of year (the Midnight Sun) due to the high latitude of the area (78 degrees north). Therefore, researchers will be able to monitor it during the night with the Sun on the horizon.

The transits of planets have historically been used to determine the Sun-Earth distance. Nowadays, this phenomenon, observed in other stars, is one of the techniques used to search for exoplanets, that is, planets in other star systems: when these planets cross in front of the star its brightness decreases.

The Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the UB, the Montsec Astronomical Park, the Institute for Space Studies of Catalonia, and the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology collaborate in the Venus 2012 project.

Link to the Venus 2012 web page: http://venus2012.ub.edu/

Adapted from information issued by the University of Barcelona.

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