Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
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's The Big Picture. Phil Plait pointed out a cool shot from Thierry Legault of a transit during a transit.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Venus Transit and Hunting For Alien Worlds

Comments Filter:
  • Note to submitter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:30PM (#40269505) Journal
    If you have to use gimmicks like:
    • Starting your summary with "Forget... Soon we'll be able to..."
    • Using phrases like "wowed" and "mind-blowing"
    • Closing with "but that's not all"

    It's generally a warning to readers that either there is no substance to what you're going to tell us, or we're about to hear the breathlessly-excited gossip of a 13-year old.

    Try to stick to concisely telling us the facts, and let the story is be impressive on its own merits.

    • But that's not all: For just another $9.98 you can get your very own slashdot blurb! Order now, operators are standing by!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not even mentioned in blurb or linked article was the handily relevant fact that Pluto was first seen at the same observatory, albeit a different telescope. How poor.
      Thankfully a 437 meter effective optical aperture is not a 13 year old's girly gossip. Keep practicing, Mr. astroengine.

  • 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

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

      ""Cheer up, Flicka. Always remember that, when things seem darkest, they usually get considerably worse."

      Heinlein "Podkayne of Mars", 1953. In a quote that is one of the earliest written references [] to a cell phone. How's that for going off topic?

    • 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 having a degree in education, or being a member of a teachers union.

      As entrenched and parochial as the university academic establishment is these days, being a secondary school instructor should seem like a breath of fresh air. Unless you've got an assistant/associate professor's gig at a medium to large university, the pay would be about the same, and there are usually more science teachers needed than research associates. Not to mention the lives you could change, even if you just made a fraction of each graduating class learn to love science more.

    • by Occams ( 2422082 )
      Whats the big deal? Planits are transiting the sun every day: we are just not in the right place to see them, The usefulness of this event ended 200 years ago. Get over it.
  • Don't let some goofy scientist tell you otherwise.

  • Resolution (Score:4, Informative)

    by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @03:36PM (#40269859)

    From TFA:

    We're not just trying to take pictures of stars and see them as disks -- which is something we can do

    That was new to me, so I did some digging. The Hubble was the first telescope to do this, in 1996 []. It's quite incredible that we can now do this.

    Annoyingly, searching Google for 'image disk star' gives loads of false positives (protoplanetary disks).

    • Although not a direct image, Betelgeuse [] was also the first star (other than the Sun) to have its angular diameter measured by interferometry, in 1920.

  • Hubble-Bubble (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cazekiel ( 1417893 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @03:46PM (#40269927)

    The last link is just awesomesauce. That is all.

  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @03:49PM (#40269951)

    Using the 'wait until a planet crosses between us and the star it is orbitting" is not a particularly effective way of finding other planets
    Unless we are in the same plane as the system, we are not going to find anything, and even then its not going to happen very often.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      And yet Kepler has already recorded hundreds of planets, more than ever before observed, using this exact method.

  • Whats the difference between a planet passing in front of it's star or Colossus flicking a bugar? Please the time spans with a cyclical analysis sounds to intensive.
    • What?
      first, one is real and the other is something you made up...
      second, we don't get to see venus close to us very often so that's why it's talked about.

      I'm thinking you're just trolling, but I figure I'll at least let you talk before we drop the floorboard.

      • by axlr8or ( 889713 )
        OOoh. Very spicy U r. Trolling.? Hmm. No not really. I was in fact, referring to the imaging from great distances. At those distances just about anything could come between a star and a telescope. An asteroid, sputnik, dead aliens, the Prometheus. I'm not an expert on light. You sound like you are. Please provide your credentials and expound.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.