Unless you are lucky and healthy enough to live for another 105 years, tomorrow will be your last chance to see a Venus transit from the surface of the Earth. But this need not be the last transit of Venus that you will ever see.
The upcoming rare transit of Venus is one step in a long dance among Earth, Venus and the Sun. Transits of Venus follow a peculiar pattern—two transits 8 years apart, then 105.5 years with no transits, then two transits 8 years apart, then 121.5 years with no transits, for a total cycle of 243 years—and thereby hangs a tale.
At the end of last week, a rather sensational article appeared in both the Russian- and English-language sites of the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti. "Life Spotted on Venus - Russian Scientist," ran the English headline; a Google translation of the Russian one goes: "The Soviet probes may have photographed creatures on Venus."
During the afternoon poster session at the Division of Planetary Sciences / European Planetary Science Congress meeting, I had a long talk with Ludmila Zasova (IKI) about Russia's Venera-D mission to Venus.
I'm preparing a talk for the Pacific Astronomy and Telescope Show here in Pasadena on Sunday afternoon at 1:45. I have spent the morning putting together a slide that I have long wanted to have for presentations.
Regular readers of this blog will find the content of today's 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast familiar, because it's an update on what the solar system exploration spacecraft are up to, based on my monthly "what's up" updates.
Wednesday morning included some interesting conversations. Notably, I spoke with Pamela Gay, who is responsible for the MoonZoo citizen science program and who is presently working on developing a site through which the public will be able to help search for potential Kuiper belt objects for the New Horizons mission to encounter after the Pluto flyby.
Space probes grant us perspective, the ability to see our place within the vastness of the solar system. But opportunities to see all of the solar system's planets in one observation are rare. In fact, there's only been one opportunity on one mission to see the whole solar system at once, until now.
There are two intriguing possibilities being discussed in the Japanese media for what to do with Akatsuki, a space probe in orbit near Venus with a fully functional, highly capable suite of cameras but a damaged main engine.