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One of the better images from the transit of Venus to emerge this week comes from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. It shows a detailed view of the face of the Sun with Venus approaching on June 5th, 2012.

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The rare transit of Venus across the face of the Sun in 2004 was photographed widely from Europe, to Asia to Africa and North America by professionals and amateurs. North Carolina based photographer David Cortner explains how he made the photograph, which was featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day: “I made this photo on a rainy morning from an overlook above North Carolina’s Catawba River. The sky was clear for only a few minutes, just long enough to grab this photo with a Nikon DSLR and a 5-inch Astro-Physics refractor. I wouldn’t have bothered to get up at all except for the thought that if James Cook would sail halfway around the world to see a transit of Venus, who was I not to at least set up the telescope and hope for the best.”

The next transit of Venus will be in on June 5 or 6, depending on your location. You may want to pencil it in, because the one after June 2012 is not until December 2117. Venus transits come in pairs, eight years apart, then don’t come again for more than 100 years. To see a NASA simulation of the coming transit, click here.

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NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, in orbit since 2010, is on a mission to help us understand the sun’s impact on Earth and nearby space, producing some the most dramatic images of the solar atmosphere. This image from March 13, 2012, shows a “medium-sized” solar flare (the bright spot on the right) which is big enough to cause radio blackouts in the Earth’s polar regions. Solar flares are bursts of radiation that come from a release of intense magnetic energy, and are our solar system’s largest explosive events. They can last from minutes to several hours. The image is taken in a wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum which allows us to see what the sun’s atmosphere looks like.

NASA/SDO

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My foreign policy is always war.
Three wise men once said, “Intergalactic, planetary. Planetary, intergalactic.” I think we all take solace from those words at some points in our life. For are we not all made of star stuff? Solar 2 is built on this species of Saganian wisdom. Coupled with some delightful planetary physics and a dash of good humour, it’s probably the best time you can have alone with a heavenly body. Um. That’s not what I mean. Um. Um.

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