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Space Science

The Venus Transit and Hunting For Alien Worlds 41

astroengine writes "Forget simply detecting a slight 'dip' in brightness as an exoplanet transits in front of its star; soon we'll be able to image the event. What's more, by doing this we'll see that exoplanetary transits look exactly like the historic Venus transit that wowed the world on Tuesday. This is according to astronomer Gerard van Belle, of Lowell Observatory near Flagstaff, Ariz., who hopes to use an interferometer to carry out the mind-blowing goal of capturing the silhouettes of exoplanets drifting in front of distant stars. But that's not all: this whole effort may help us track down the first bona fide Earth-like alien world." In case you missed it, NASA posted a bunch of great footage and pictures of the Venus transit, as did Boston.com's The Big Picture. Phil Plait pointed out a cool shot from Thierry Legault of a transit during a transit.
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The Venus Transit and Hunting For Alien Worlds

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  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @03:23PM (#40269783)

    Moderately off topic...

    My friend was very upset that she did not get to see it in person.

    It seems a lot of newsspeak organizations were quoting "experts" that "there will be plenty of people with setups to view it", and that "the apparatus to view it is dead simple". But she didn't get to see it /directly/ because there were not sufficiently scientifically inclined people set up in her area to let her see it.

    All it required a small amount of optics (binoculars), a mirror, and something to project the image onto. Getting to this point was beyond her, and it was beyond the people she worked with. It really drives home to me how disconnected science programs in schools are from cause/effect in reality.

    It makes me wonder how much stuff that is "obvious" to us just doesn't filter down into the impact it makes on humans everyday lives.

    This reminds me very much of a discussion I had with someone about "the theory of evolution" when I pointed out that dropping an object was a demonstration of "the theory of gravity". She was appalled that gravity was considered a theory from a scientific point of view -- "You mean you don't know how this stuff works?!?"; I had to explain that yes, we knew *how* it worked, we just didn't know *why* -- the same as evolution.

    The idea that people can do science (maybe Science, with a capitol 'S'?) with stuff they have lying around their house is probably not emphasized enough; it made me want to become a science teacher, but of course I'm not qualified, only being a physicist and a computer scientist, and not havig a degree in education, or being a member of a teachers union.

    Makes me worry about the future more than I already do.

    -- Terry

  • by Cazekiel ( 1417893 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @03:41PM (#40269889)

    I was reading an article when the solar eclipse was coming about and the upcoming Venus event on yahoo. I was astounded and dismayed to see the comments below, with so many people asking, "Can someone reply to me and tell me about this? I'm too lazy to read the article." I normally either ignore idiotic comments or try to make reasonable discussion, but in these cases, I replied somewhere along the lines, "Fuck off, read it yourself."

    I mean, to think--it's not as if the article was riffed from a super-scientific study that required a master's in science and astronomy to make sense of it. It's one thing if someone DOES read it and wants further information, but to have someone act like they can't be bothered but find it cool anyway but can't be bothered... it actually makes me angry, because you just know how many of them would eat up a stupid report about 'Jersey Shore' without asking for internet Cliff Notes. Maybe I'm just an astronomy snob (I had a coworker say "it's the same thing, really," when I pointed out that astronomy and astrology were NOT the same thing; I gritted my teeth about it all day), but if you want to discover something cool, sometimes you gotta read a few paragraphs. /end rant

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban