What We Can Learn From Venus' Transit

Phenomenon could help us identify exoplanets
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2012 1:46 PM CDT
What We Can Learn From Venus' Transit
Indian children use cardboard eclipse glasses as they prepare to watch the transit of Venus in Allahabad, India, Tuesday, June 5, 2012.   (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Astronomers have identified some 2,000 possible far-off worlds called exoplanets, and today could mark a milestone in the quest to confirm their findings. The transit of Venus across the sun could help us learn about the changes in light caused by a planet passing its star—and this knowledge could be applied to the hunt for exoplanets, writes astronomy professor Jay Pasachoff in the New York Times.

There's more to be learned from the transit, too: Pasachoff's team will observe it from a Hawaiian volcano and try to deduce new information about Venus' atmosphere, as well as those of exoplanets. In learning from the transit, today's astronomers will be following a centuries-old tradition, dating back to young Jeremiah Horrocks in 1639. It's just another example of the "opportunities the universe throws us to unlock its secrets," writes Pasachoff. Planning on checking it out for yourself? Here's how. (Read more Venus stories.)

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