Thursday, June 7, 2012

A look back on the Venus transit of 2012

Now that some of the excitement and the flurry of news coverage from the 2012 transit of Venus is fading from the headlines, I will venture to share one of my favorite images of this historic event.

Above is perhaps the "least spectacular" image on the web of the Venus transit, but meaningful to me since I took it myself, and took it just a few seconds after getting my first glimpse of the progress of the planet across our sun's disc.  

I happened to be on the road, listening to some of the best engineers in the world discussing strategies they are implementing to process or transmit data over the electromagnetic spectrum, using many different engineering approaches to meet the demands and exigencies of the existing network, employing this or that Gigahertz (frequency), at this or that clock cycle, with this or that measurement of watts, throughput, and latency.

Then I stepped out into the brilliant Silicon Valley sunshine and observed a very different cycle, but one which (like the electromagnetic waves that carry data around the world, including the data that makes up this blog post) follows a very predictable pattern and can be said to have a frequency, and thus to resonate with the "harmony of the spheres" -- the motion of the planet Venus in relation to our earth as both heavenly bodies make their way around our sun.

While the image above is not very spectacular in comparison to some of the truly stunning images that were captured by other observers during this event, it was spectacular to me, as the light streaming from the sun to my location revealed the outline of the hurtling body of Venus traveling across the solar disc.

Meanwhile, the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory was observing the same event and sending the incredible imagery that it captured through the ether of space (also using the electromagnetic spectrum and communications technology related to that being discussed by the engineers described above) for humanity on earth.  

Below is a video of the truly stunning images that it saw, using the imaging equipment capable of producing images at eight times better resolution than current-generation HD televisions, and capable of capturing light at frequencies above the visible portion of the spectrum.

In the video below, some of the footage shows imaging taken within the visible spectrum (orange-colored sun), while other footage shows imaging using various frequencies of the ultraviolet spectrum, including wavelengths of 1700 angstrom (magenta-colored sun), 304 angstrom (red-colored sun), and 171 angstrom (golden-colored sun).  An angstrom is a tenth of a nanometer, so those wavelengths translate to 170 nanometers, 30.4 nanometers, and 17.1 nanometers (wavelengths between 400nm and 10nm are designated as the ultraviolet spectrum).  Shorter wavelengths indicate higher frequencies, and those with wavelengths approaching 10nm at the upper end of the ultraviolet spectrum correspond to frequencies of approaching 30 Petahertz, with one Petahertz equal to a thousand Terahertz and one Terahertz equal to a thousand Gigahertz (and one Gigahertz equal to 1,000 Megahertz), meaning that 30 Petahertz is equivalent to 30 million GHz:

 For some previous blog posts discussing various aspects of the significance of our synodic cycle with Venus, see here, here, and here.