Watch nearly seven hours of transit time in less than twenty seconds! This time lapse movie from ESA TV shows the transit of Venus as experienced under the midnight sun, 78 degrees north from the Arctic island of Svalbard. Interference from cloud gives an eerie feel to the scene.
Tag Archives: Svalbard
Transiting the midnight sun
Our last transit of Venus, the movie
The anticipation and excitement of watching the transit of Venus under the midnight Sun in the high northern latitudes of Svalbard is portrayed nicely in this short film by Lightcurve Films, in association with the European Planetology Network. Lightcurve Films produced six short films about the transit, four of which were shot on location in Svalbard earlier this week. Watch all six here: http://vimeo.com/channels/ourlasttransitofvenus/
Venus Express and the transit of Venus
ESA's Venus Express project scientist Håkan Svedhem observes the transit of Venus from Svalbard as Venus Express – the only spacecraft orbiting Venus at the moment – prepares to take its solar occultation measurements. During these measurements sunlight will filter through Venus' atmosphere, revealing the concentration of different gas molecules at different altitudes. This technique is also used to probe the atmospheres of planets outside of our Solar System – exoplanets – to determine their potential habitability. Simultaneous ground-based measurements will be compared with Venus Express data to test techniques used to characterise rocky Earth-sized planets.
Transit of Venus on ESA TV!
Our luck continues in Svalbard and between patchy cloud we are being treated to splendid views of Venus as it passes in front of the Sun. Here's a shot through the ESA TV camera...look closely, it's approaching the 11 o'clock position!
“We got it!”
It may be cloudy, but we were still able to see some of the first moments of the 2012 transit of Venus here in Svalbard thanks to ESAC's Michel Breitfellner and Miguel Perez Ayucar, who have solar and optical telescopes equipped with cameras. Their images from Svalbard and from colleagues located on the other side of the world in Canberra, Australia, will be uploaded here throughout the night, so do keep watching!
Local transit celebrations
No doubt the explorers of the long transit expeditions of the 18th century found ways to entertain themselves while they waited to make their precious measurements. Here in Svalbard the locals are counting down the final hour to transit with renditions from the local choir, husky rides, and hot chocolates all round!
There is certainly a feeling of excitement and celebration of this historical event, despite heavy cloud cover.
Svalbard: home to satellite tracking station
Set far within the Arctic circle, the midnight sun makes Svalbard the perfect location to witness the whole of the transit of Venus tonight. But did you know that this location is also home to the Svalbard Satellite Station complex? Operated by Kongsberg Satellite Services AS (KSAT), it is the only satellite station that can track all 14 daily passes of polar-orbiting satellites, which included ESA's Envisat until the mission ended last month.
In this view, four domes of the tracking station are just visible.
Find out more here.
Transit minus seven hours
It's around seven hours to first contact and the Svalbard teams are uncovering their telescopes to make final checks and prepare for a night of observing.
The sky is clear in places, but clouds currently hanging over the mountains could pose a problem later.
Meanwhile the local events hosted by the university and Svalbard museum are being prepared – a teepee has sprung up not far from the telescopes!
The program of events includes a trio of public lectures. Thomas Widemann from Paris Observatory will review the history of Venus transits and their relevance to exoplanets, ESA's Dimitry Titov will present highlights from Venus Express, and David Grinspoon from the Denver Museum of Natural History will discuss 'life on Venus and relevance to Earth's climate'.
Team Svalbard sail the Arctic seas
The Venus Express science working team and members of the press covering the 2012 transit at just after midnight on 5 June, exactly 24 hours before the start of the transit begins here in Svalbard.
Voyage to the midnight sun
Last night the Venus Express science working team, along with ground-based observing teams and media crew here to cover the transit, took a break from meetings to enjoy a boat ride out to the glaciers of Spitsbergen under the midnight sun. For many, the trip conjured up powerful analogies to transit expeditions of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Thomas Widemann from the Observatoire de Paris, who will be making observations of the aureole of Venus first observed during the 1761 transit summed up the mood nicely:
“It’s amazing to be here, sailing under the midnight sun the night before the 2012 Venus transit, and thinking about the historical expeditions that saw the likes of Captain James Cook sail round the world to make observations of the 1769 transit."
Like the expeditions of our astronomical forefathers the observation campaigns of the 21st century have required months of dedicated planning. Thomas has spent the last month deploying his teams and their telescopes to sites all over the world, including Japan, Hawaii, Australia and India, drawing further parallels with the historical expeditions which voyaged to widely spaced locations to compare the time at which the transit began. Those results would lead to an estimate of the astronomical unit and the size of the Solar System, arguably the most important astronomical measurements of the time.
But despite the best-laid plans, and a problem that astronomers of today are all too familiar with, clouds ruined some of these years-long expeditions.
As for the hopes riding on the observation campaigns based here in Svalbard, Thomas says: “This is the first time there’s been a dedicated observation campaign for the aureole, and even if some of our sites are clouded out, it will be huge success just to get one of these observations.”
Meanwhile ESAC’s Miguel Perez Ayucar and Michel Breitfellner are preparing to stream images of the transit live from Svalbard from just after midnight tonight. “The last few days have been really cloudy which has been frustrating, but today has just been fantastic, giving us the chance to test out our equipment under the midnight sun,” says Miguel.
Right now, with a little over 12 hours to go, the weather in Svalbard is mixed: sunny skies but with clouds hovering over the mountains. Stay tuned for more updates!