Sunday, June 3, 2012

Quick! Fly to Hawaii!

Ok, so we were playing around with the real cool transit simulator at that shows the path Venus will take as viewed from different locations on the planet.  From here at Digital Diner, the path should be something like this:

 It is interesting to see that the path is NOT a straight line across the Sun.  OK, that makes sense.  After all, in addition to the elliptical orbit of Venus (which I believe has little effect on the curve) we are sitting on a planet that is spinning around and so our point of reference is continually changing.
The implication of this is that the shape of this curve will be different from different places on the globe.  In fact, if you were to watch from the north pole, you will find that Venus cuts a nearly straight path across the Sun as shown in the image below.

Ok, so, if it is really straight at the north pole, it must be really curvy near the equator.  After all, at the equator, over the course of the day, your point of view will change by 8000 miles (the diameter of the Earth) that you will not move as you sit relatively still at the north pole.

After we looked at this, we decided to check the view from Hawaii.  Yowza!  Look at that!

It looks like it swerves away from the Sun just before it hits the fiery globe. However, it can't avoid our star and it eventually dives into the interior where it does a loop before being spit out.  What a cool path!  I especially like the fact that it spends a lot of time right near the edge of the Sun.  It makes me think that there will be plenty of opportunities to get interesting pictures like this one:

So, clearly, you should hop on an airplane and head to Hawaii to catch this event first hand.  Fortunately, if you can't make it to Hawaii in person, you can watch it live on the web.  Images will be streaming from NASA EDGE in Mauna Kea, Hawaii.  Take a look at the live feed on the day of the transit.

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