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Space Science

Venus Transit Finished 220

KjetilK writes "Venus is just about to cross the solar disc. Direct from the control room in the Frogner Park in Oslo, I'm pleased to inform you that we have a great webcast, and as far as we know, it is the only webcast that still stands upright... Slashdotters, do your worst! ;-) A Venus transit is one of the most unique astronomical events in our time, in fact, no living person has witnessed it before today. And today, more people have seen it from the park where I'm sitting that in the rest of human history. Also, it had tremendous importance for the development of science, as it gave the first absolute measurements of distances in the solar system. Especially in 1769, a transit made science take huge leaps forward. And BTW, New Zealand and Australia were 'discovered' in the process" Some nice photos from the UK, photos from vt-2004.org, and if you missed it, it'll be eight short years till you can try again.
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Venus Transit Finished

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  • Another article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mz6 ( 741941 ) * on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:40AM (#9367399) Journal
    For those insterested, the poster really didn't leave any links to explain some of his claims about distances and the discovery of NZ and Australia.. This article I found explains most of it in detail. [abc.net.au]


    How transits can determine distances:

    In 1716, Edmond Halley was the first astronomer to suggest transits could be used to work out how far away the Sun is - also known as AU. Once this was known, the distances to all the other planets in the Solar System could be calculated.

    If the transit was measured from several different places on earth, Halley reasoned, there should be a slight difference in the visible track across the sun. But this shift is so slight it is difficult to measure directly. Instead, the time at four different points during the transit can be noted down. These are: the first moment when Venus touches the Sun's disc, the moment when it is completely inside the disk, the moment when it makes contact with the other side of the disk on its way out, and the last moment of contact.

    Astronomers can then compare these four timings as seen from different locations, a known distance apart. Using some fairly simple geometry the distance between the Earth and the Sun can be calculated.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:10PM (#9367784)
      Uh... everyone knows the sun is exactly 1 AU away... by definition. That was hard! :)
    • Re:Another article (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mmcdouga ( 459816 )
      Astronomers can then compare these four timings as seen from different locations, a known distance apart. Using some fairly simple geometry the distance between the Earth and the Sun can be calculated.

      The method described apparently requires the astronomers to have synched clocks spread out over the globe. Since NTP was not in widespread use in 1716, how did they manage to keep the clocks in sync despite the long distances, different time zones and slow rates of travel back then?

      Not saying it's impos
      • Re:Another article (Score:2, Insightful)

        by chocotof ( 691813 )
        Another possibility might be that they only needed the elapse time. I.e. to mesure the time between these events ?
      • Jupiter (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Detritus ( 11846 )
        In a documentary on the origins of the chronometer, they mentioned the use of observations of Jupiter's moons, along with a set of tables, as a method of determining time.
      • how did they manage to keep the clocks in sync despite the long distances, different time zones and slow rates of travel back then?

        Well by looking at the phase of the moon. If you know at what time the moon will be in what phase at a given loaction, you can calculate your location by the difference in time as measured by the sun.

        Unfortunately, this requires quite a bit more math than you think, and the margin of error is quite high without very good instruments. TZhis would probably be why Captian Cook's

    • The Greeks calculated the distance from the Earth to Sol in a less complicated manor, using very simple means, they had calculations for the size of the moon and the size of Sol, they also figured out the distance to the moon, and used similar triangles to calculate the distance between the two, because during an eclipse they appear to be the same size.
  • urp. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:42AM (#9367438)
    There once was a transit of Venus...
  • by lecithin ( 745575 ) * on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:43AM (#9367447)
    If you were lucky, you may have been able to see the ISS transit the sun at the same time. Details on Thomas Fly's site: http://iss-transit.sourceforge.net/IssVenusTransit .html
  • by jamesdood ( 468240 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:44AM (#9367458)
    sounded pretty neat, they have a good write up here [npr.org] Since I missed it glad someone took some pictures!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:44AM (#9367461)
    Leigons of small black dots protested the international frenzy over Venus' transit across the Sun by refusing to move across larger, white dots. "We're not getting fair and equal attention!" claimed Period.
  • Way to go! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:44AM (#9367462) Homepage Journal
    Venus is just about to cross the solar disc

    Of course, that was the case when submitted, but the editors thought it was best to wait until its over before putting it on the frontpage.

    So the way it works is... when someone asks to slashdot a webcast, wait til its over to put it on the front page, but when an anonymous poster points to an IP (not a domain), slashdot the hell outta it [slashdot.org].
    • Yup, I submitted it just after half-way through, but they may not have discovered the post before that, I guess.

      I had plans to submit it long ago, but I've been working around-the-clock lately, so I didn't have time to post anything intelligent (?) before about half-way....

      I had really great plans that would attract /.-ers, like a dynamically updated bittorrents, but I never got around to do that....

      However, for those having timed the contacts, check out my AU calculator [owl.uio.no]! But note that that's a tiny,

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:44AM (#9367465)


  • pics i took (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rexguo ( 555504 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:44AM (#9367468) Homepage

    Just wanna share with you folks some pics [waterlogic.com.sg] I took using nothing but the most basic equipment, including using a piece of Epson inkjet paper for projecting the image...

    • Where do you live? I saw the last pic with the palm trees and became unbearably homesick for somewhere I've never been :)

      Great Venus pics too, thanks!
      • Where do you live? I saw the last pic with the palm trees and became unbearably homesick for somewhere I've never been :)

        Just a wild guess, but judging by the web address under his name in the .sg domain, I'd say probably Singapore. Certainly fits the palm trees and places-where-venus-transit-was-visible requirements.

        • Re:pics i took (Score:2, Informative)

          by bonius_rex ( 170357 )

          This is slashdot and all, but if you'd read the words, instead of just looking at the pictures, you'd have seen this:

          Welcome to my poor man's experience of the Venus Transit of 2004, from the far eastern island of Singapore.

    • Re:pics i took (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sir dies alot ( 782598 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:59AM (#9367658)
      I just wanted to tell you that those poor man's images of the transit impressed me far more than the professional ones I saw earlier. Keep up the great work and thanks for recording it all, as I missed it myself.
    • Re:pics i took (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ncw ( 59013 )
      I took some similar pictures using a quite similar lashup (using a small 'scope rather than binoculars). I sent them to the BBC News web site and they published one of them!

      See the 4th image in the news in pictures section [bbc.co.uk]

      My image is also appearing on the front page [bbc.co.uk] (about 50% of the time)

      The spectacle of the transit and that made my day ;-)

    • Re:pics i took (Score:2, Interesting)

      I also took one which, I think, is unlike any of the ones that you will see today. http://www.digitalapoptosis.com/archives/miscellan eous/000161.html
    • Re:pics i took (Score:2, Interesting)

      Hopefully mine [digitalapoptosis.com] will be more original than most of the ones that you have seen today. Now if I could only remember how to deleted the previous comment with the bad address :-(
  • by philntc ( 735836 ) <info@[...]loosystems.com_water_in_gap> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:45AM (#9367479) Journal
    I can still see it everytime I close my eyes...
  • Impressive (Score:5, Funny)

    by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:47AM (#9367499) Journal
    And as far as I know, no reports of ignorant and supestitious lunatics predicting the end of the world. This is progress. I hope...
  • Sic transit gloria Veneris.
  • by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:48AM (#9367515)
    I wasnt aware this was happening until I work this morning and switched on the news.

    It amuses me that any channel that covers these kind of events spends 2% of their times covering the basics of astronomy and why this event is quite rare.

    The other 98% is spent explaining the danger of staring directly at the sun.

    Then... I go to the park to eat my lunch in the sunshine (rare in the UK) only to see hoards of people doing exactly this (or thinking that cheap sunglasses will protect them). Worse is mothers trying to show their kids ("Mummy, mummy, I cant see anything... and my eyes hurt"... "Just keep looking sweety... you will see it when your eyes lose sensativity!").

    So a further warning to slashdotters...

    Dont stare directly at the sun...

    Just get someone else to do it and descibe it to you ;o)
  • Pictures (Score:3, Funny)

    by mirko ( 198274 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:48AM (#9367516) Journal
    Why do all these pictures [ex.ac.uk] remind me of her [djmcc.com] ?
  • Cool pictures, but some of them freak me out. That black sphere on the sun is just too reminiscent of Jupiter being consumed by the obelisks in 2010.
  • So how often does the Mercury transit occur?

    • Google sez..... 12 times a century.

    • Re:Mercury (Score:4, Informative)

      by lecithin ( 745575 ) * on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:11PM (#9367797)
      If Mercury's orbit was not inclined with respect to the orbit of the Earth, Mercury would transit across the Sun every 116 days (the period of time between two identical configurations Sun-Mecuri as seen from the Earth; i.e. synodic period). But the inclination of Mercury's orbit (7 degress) causes that most times Mercury's path crosses "above" or "below" the solar disc, without a transit taking place. Therefore, on average, there are only 13 transits per century, separated by intervals ranging from 3.5 to 13 years. Currently, transits of Mercury can only occur during the months of May and November. Stolen From http://www.am.ub.es/~emasana/mercuri2003/faq_eng.h tml
    • Re:Mercury (Score:4, Informative)

      by tommy_teardrop ( 228273 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:19PM (#9367878)
      With thanks to Google:

      Transits of Mercury: 2001-2100

      Date Time

      2003 May 07 07:52
      2006 Nov 08 21:41
      2016 May 09 14:57
      2019 Nov 11 15:20
      2032 Nov 13 08:54
      2039 Nov 07 08:46
      2049 May 07 14:24
      2052 Nov 09 02:30
      2062 May 10 21:37
      2065 Nov 11 20:07
      2078 Nov 14 13:42
      2085 Nov 07 13:36
      2095 May 08 21:08
      2098 Nov 10 07:18
      • A Mercury transit isn't interesting for the common man. It happens "often", though. But it's too small, and a planet without a heavy athmosphere as Venus doesn't make much action.
  • by kakapo ( 88299 )
    Strictly speaking, New Zealand and Australia were both 'discovered' (by both Europeans, and their indigenous inhabitants) well before 1769, when Cook sailed to Tahiti to observe the transit. Cook's contribution was mapping the coastline of New Zealand with much greater accuracy, and mapping big chunks of the eastern coast of Australia.

    His biggest discovery was what he didn't find -- at the time, there was considerable belief in the idea of a "great southern land" somewhere in the Pacific, and Cooks thr
  • this is unique (Score:2, Interesting)

    `it'll be eight short years till you can try again.' now, this is truly significant event in astronomy.
  • by dotz ( 683519 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:54AM (#9367604)
    1. Get xplanet! [sf.net]
    2. Setup instructions [freebsddiary.org] (despite BSD-related site, pretty useful even on win32!)
    3. ???
  • Australia (Score:4, Informative)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:57AM (#9367636)

    Recording the transit of Venus was the official reason for Cooks voyage to Tahiti - he carried precise scientific instruments to record it, as recording it from different locations around the world would provide valuable information.

    Once this was done, Cook opened a secret envelope which contained the real reason for his voyage - to discover the great unknown land mass in the south (Australia) and claim it for England.
  • Photos (Score:2, Informative)

    by Seft ( 659449 )
    Here are some photos from Winchester College, UK: Here [everybuddy.com] and one that I took, Here [deviantart.com], and Here (colour corrected) [deviantart.com]
  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:00PM (#9367679)
    A few years ago I bought a book that mapped all of the voyages that Cook had undertaken. It also showed copies of all the maps that he had with him when he went on his voyage of "discovery" when he visited Oz in 1770.

    Cook knew there was a continent there from all of those maps and also from the accounts of all the other sailors that had been tooling around the area during the previous century. So he never really discovered it per se, more just claimed it for England. In fact as he was running around the Sydney area, the Frenchman La Perouse was also in the same area at the same time.

    If anything the discovery of Oz by westerners should be credited to the Dutch, who ran into the west coast when they forgot to turn left on their trips around South Africa, and up to the East Indies. Google for Dirk Hartog and the silver plate he nailed to a tree well before Cook was a glimmer in his fathers eye. If the areas the Dutch had seen had a been a little bit more fertile, instead of bordering on major desert, then they might have wanted to spend a bit more time there. But when you are colonising sort of chap, a very dry west coast is not really all that appealing.

    Of course if you want true discovery you have to go back to Aborigines who have been here for more than 40,000 years. And before you discount them as primative stone age relics, have a read of Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and consider that their society was STABLE for 10s of THOUSANDS of years. Anyone want to take bets if western society can remain stable for another 100 years?????

    Finally we have to thank you Yanks for the actual colonisation of Oz by the Brits. If you hadn't had that little war of independence back a few years ago, the Brits would not have had to find a new location for their crims. And I would have grown up speaking with a North American accent ..
    • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:52PM (#9368279) Homepage
      Of course if you want true discovery you have to go back to Aborigines who have been here for more than 40,000 years.

      But did they have any flags?

    • Finally we have to thank you Yanks for the actual colonisation of Oz by the Brits. If you hadn't had that little war of independence back a few years ago, the Brits would not have had to find a new location for their crims.

      Jeez, just do what we did. All it takes is a few friends in the French navy.

      And I would have grown up speaking with a North American accent ..

      You should thank us for that. Y'all. ;^)


  • There is a great picture of the event posted by a Canon 10D owner from Digital Photography Review [dpreview.com] website. He used an expensive filter and telescope.
  • by StupendousMan ( 69768 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:07PM (#9367757) Homepage

    Though it is certainly true that astronomers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries spent a great deal of time and energy travelling to the far corners of the Earth to observe transits of Venus, these rare events were NOT their only chances to measure the absolute size of the solar system. Simultaneous or near-simultaneous measurements of Mars or certain asteroids also allow one to derive absolute distances via parallax; although the targets are more distant than Venus, they provide significantly better observing conditions and references for astrometry. Cassini, for example, used measurements of Mars in 1672 to calculate the Astronomical Unit (the distance between Earth and Sun) to better than 10 percent.

    Still, transits of Venus were certainly a major focus for the astronomical community. I wrote up material on the geometry and history of transits for a seminar: read it for yourself [rit.edu]. There are links to other good sites at the end of my lecture.

  • Best transit photo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:07PM (#9367763)
    Here is the best photo you'll see of this morning's transit. Taken by Jerry Zhu a member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh.

    LINK [cmu.edu]

    Look down the page to see the "ring of light" images which prove Venus has an atmosphere (as if we didn't already know).

    -berek halfhand
  • A few other pictures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:10PM (#9367789)
    Here's a few other pictures from a photography message board I frequent:

    Nice color:
    http://www.pbase.com/image/29906625 [pbase.com]

    Impressive quality:
    http://cakeru.image.pbase.com/image/29912804/large .jpg [pbase.com]
  • ...no living person has witnessed it before today.

    Well, this actually isn't true.

    Plenty of living people have witnessed Venus transits before today.

    What is true is that nobody now living has ever personally witnessed a Venus transit, since the last one occurred over 100 years ago, and everyone who witnessed it is now dead.

  • I feel the need to blow up the Planet Venus. It's blocking my view of the Sun.
  • Just look at these pictures [webcast3.uio.no]. They were taken by the Swedish Solar Telescope.

    Too bad I couldn't see the transit from my place. Maybe in 2012 I can be in the right location. Does any Hawaiian, Japanese or Polinesian slashdotter have a room for rent in June 2012? :)
  • solar disc? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by werdnapk ( 706357 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:22PM (#9367913)
    What's the deal with using the term "solar disc" instead of the usual "sun"? I'm not sure if using the former is supposed to make the event sound more impressive or what?
    • Re:solar disc? (Score:3, Informative)

      I believe the term "solar disc" refers to the Sun as seen from the earth. An object cannot pass in front of another object without a reference point to determine where the front is. I guess it's just a little more percise to say it that way.
  • BBC Program tonight. (Score:3, Informative)

    by amembleton ( 411990 ) <(moc.toofgib) (ta) (notelbmea)> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:34PM (#9368063) Homepage
    Tonight there is an hour long program on BBC 2 at 11.20PM about the Transit of Venus.

    More Information [bbc.co.uk]
  • Great event! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dot-magnon ( 730521 ) <coNO@SPAMauralvision.no> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:43PM (#9368173) Homepage
    It was a great event :)

    Our norwegian, super-enthusiastic astrophysiologist, Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard, really made my day. Props to him for being who he is, a real geek without being afraid of showing it. And he thinks these things are so extremely fun, that I think so myself.

    And the best of it all was that he asked his girlfriend to marry him, in the middle of the whole set. Mad, mad, mad man. But still so great, and so much fun.

    Well, and to argue against those just saying "What the heck, it's just a black spot": Well, if I only had the chance of singing "Amazing Grace" once every century, I'd probably do it. Not because it's a good song, but because it's special. After all, it just happens once every seldom time. And the last time, it gave us many answers to astroscientific questions.

    Phew, no getting up at 5:30 for astrological events the next few weeks.
    • Re:Great event! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KjetilK ( 186133 )
      Glad you liked it!

      We had a really great time too! :-)

      And none of us had any idea what he was up to just before it happened. I had seen her before, but I really didn't know who she was. I was sitting inside the mixing bus, and we were like "who is she, what's going to happen?" And then we just ran out to congratulate them.

      To describe the setup: It's in a rather large park, and in one corner, we have a stage with some good sound and a 40 m^2 big screen, and some TV cameras running around, feeding pict

      • As you said, not much sleep. My apologies. It was probably that guy in the planetarium who told stories about the astrological aspects of the star sprangled sky who made me say that ;)
    • by rayvd ( 155635 )
      Our norwegian, super-enthusiastic astrophysiologist, Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard, really made my day.

      Did anyone else expect a short skit by Monty Python to follow this sentence?? :-)
  • boy you read fast, I only just started it ....
  • http://www.jackstargazer.com/VTLinks.html


    Real webcast of event:
    http://www.miamisci.org:8080/ramgen/starga zer/SG04 22.rm?usehostname
  • by Titanium Angel ( 557780 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:24PM (#9368591)
    I posted this when Slashdot ran the previous Venus transit story, but I'm afraid that not many people had the chance to read it, because I was pretty late into the discussion. Anyway, you don't get to read something like this every day, and the quote can be read in context now, this month, and never again.

    "There will be no other [transit of Venus] till the twenty-first century of our era has dawned upon the earth, and the June flowers are blooming in 2004. What will be the state of science when the next transit season arrives God only knows." - William Harkness, USNO, 1882.
  • XEYES? (Score:3, Funny)

    by PetoskeyGuy ( 648788 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:41PM (#9368748)
    Maybe it's just me, but it reminded me of someone very large using XEyes to find their mouse
  • by fuctape ( 618618 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:52PM (#9368878)
    I couldn't believe this worked. We were visually observing the transit (Meade LX200 12", solar filter, natch) using an eyepiece, and on a whim, we tried to take a few shots with a little Kodak digicam -- through the eyepiece! It worked pretty well, I thought:

    http://tech.pomfretschool.org/~jl/images/venustran sit.jpg [pomfretschool.org]

  • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @02:26PM (#9369191) Journal
    On June 6th, 2012, Slashdot will post a story about the transit of Venus, and some schmuck will complain that it's a dupe... and then link to this story.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    No realli! She was Karving her initials øn the møøse with the sharpened end of an interspace tøøthbrush given her by Svenge - her brother-in-law -an Oslo dentist and star of many Norwegian møvies: "The Høt Hands of an Oslo Dentist", "Fillings of Passion", "The Huge Mølars of Horst Nordfink"..

    Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti...

    Wi nøt trei a høliday in Sweden this yër ?
  • Here are some of the photos I took [severinghaus.org], if anyone's interested. These were shot with a Fujifilm S2 Pro [dpreview.com] and a Nikon 28-200mm lens. I was surprised how well they came out.

The trouble with a lot of self-made men is that they worship their creator.