Posts Tagged ‘Sun’

Transit of Venus

Posted by Petra on 4th June 2012 in Main Page, Petra's Blog

Image credit: NASA

Tomorrow, you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually see a planet cross over a star. Venus transits our sun for the last time in over a century at 22:09 UTC, June 5th, so find a way to watch.

Why is this so special?

If you have any astronomer friends, they’ve probably been blabbering on for months about orbital periods this, first contact that. Why won’t we shut up? Because this is literally once in a lifetime, and it’s kinda cool.

Venus, the next planet inward, will cross directly over the visible disc of the sun. It will appear as a tiny black dot, about one arcminute, covering a minuscule fraction of the disk. This isn’t a lot, but it’s enough to see with the naked eye—not the recommended way to view it, of course.

Venus’ orbit is slightly skewed compared to Earth’s, so Earth, Venus, and the sun only line up this way every 121.5 or 105.5 years. After this much time, Venus gets in the way of the sun twice, each time eight years apart. The last transit was eight years ago. The next, after tomorrow’s, will be in the year 2117.

Transits of Venus were historically used to calculate solar parallax. This eventually led to the astronomical unit, the distance from here to the sun, giving us a way to measure the solar system. Today, scientists’ observations of the transit will help in studying exoplanets.

Do you have a way to live 105.5+ more years or own a time machine? If so, I take back what I said about this being once-in-a-lifetime. Maybe it’s not so special. Even still, what’s the harm in watching?

How can I watch?

If you have vision and plan to keep it, then just going outside and staring at the sun isn’t the method for you. Consider these options instead:

  • Try making a pinhole projector.
  • Use eclipse glasses. These can be bought online or possibly at your local science museum gift shop. Don’t count on the museum shop though—they might have sold out with all the solar viewing going on lately.
  • If you have a telescope, use a filter on the front end (not the eyepiece) to protect your eyes and your telescope. Having a bit of magnification will help turn Venus from a tiny speck to a slightly less tiny speck.
  • Do you or a friend weld? No? Huh. Well, for those who do, wear #14 welder’s goggles to safely view the transit.
  • Do you have access to a device such as a computer, phone, or tablet which can connect to the internet? If not, can you please explain to me why somebody printed my website? If you do have access, check out NASA’s webcast from Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Have fun, view safely, and keep me in the loop about that time machine!

Zoe’s Geo Party! Game 1 Round 2 Category 5 Clue 5

Posted by Zoe on 25th November 2011 in Geo Party, Main Page

Watch the fifty-fifth clue of Zoe’s Geo Party! , a 61 clue long trivia game. Look for a new video clue every weekday! This is the fifth and last clue of the fifth category in the second round. There’s only one more category in this round!

This week of Zoe’s Geo Party! focuses on the science at NOAA in Boulder, Colorado. Which type of science do you like best? What are some of your favorite experiments? Tell me your ideas on the Exogeology ROCKS! Facebook page along with your response to this clue and enjoy the category. Remember to phrase your response to each clue in the form of a question! While you’re there, be sure to become a fan of Fractured Fate on Facebook.

Fractured Fate makes a great present! Buy Caja Coyote’s novel here, on Amazon, or on the official website. Go to to keep up-to-date on Fractured Fate and Caja Coyote.

Thinking About Martian Sunrises

Posted by Petra on 7th April 2010 in Petra's Blog

Yellow in the clouds
Pink and purple everywhere
Blue and bright orange sky

Cholla sunrise

I stayed up late last night working on a project that’s due really soon, and I stayed up so late that I saw the sunrise before I went to bed. It was beautiful! The sky got slowly lighter, and in the East the sky just above the horizon was peach and red. The sky above that turned slowly bluer.

I couldn’t help thinking of what the sunrise on Mars would be like. The Martian sky is red because of all the dust (with iron) in the air, but it can refract light in a similar way to Earth’s atmosphere. So, if I were on Mars right then, the colors would be reversed. The sky would be turning a brighter shade of red, with the sky in the horizon looking a bit blue or green. It would be amazing! Someday Martian colonists will get to see those sunsets and sunrises. I’m not sure I could get used to that though. I love my Arizona sunrises and sunsets!

The Search for the Unknown

Posted by Petra on 6th April 2010 in Petra's Blog

As I said before, part of being an exogeologist is getting to explore! From the bright Sun and its flares, to the outermost reaches of the Oort cloud, exogeologists get to see it all! The most exciting part is discovering new things about unexplored places.

Moons are some of the most diverse objects; some are like planets with volcanoes and atmospheres, and others are like asteroids with odd shapes and cratered surfaces. Titan has a thick and hazy atmosphere, which just makes me wonder, “What’s down there?”

Exogeologists like myself decided that Titan was a good place to explore. The Cassini-Huygens mission was and is set to explore and study Saturn and Titan. The Huygens lander detached from the Cassini spacecraft and landed on Titan. It found that there is water ice on Titan, the atmosphere is made of methane and nitrogen, and there even seems to be an underground ocean of liquid water! How cool! Literally, because Titan is so cold being so far from the Sun.

Speaking of being cold and far from the Sun, exogeology is also used for studying Kuiper Belt objects, or KBOs. The most famous KBO is Pluto, the famous dwarf planet. Just let me call it a dwarf planet for the purposes of this one blog, okay? :) Pluto and other dwarf planets are mostly made of rock and ice, like asteroids. We don’t have many good photographs of Kuiper Belt objects, so that’s one thing that I’d like to do in the future: take pictures of KBOs.

The most mysterious places to see are exoplanets, planets orbiting other stars! There are planets of all shapes and sizes out there, and exogeologists are finding more all the time! It rocks that there are other solar systems!

No matter where you look, you just might find something new and exciting! Exogeology ROCKS!