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The Venus Transit and Hunting For Alien Worlds

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the pretty-pictures-and-awesome-science dept.

Space 41

astroengine writes "Forget simply detecting a slight 'dip' in brightness as an exoplanet transits in front of its star; soon we'll be able to image the event. What's more, by doing this we'll see that exoplanetary transits look exactly like the historic Venus transit that wowed the world on Tuesday. This is according to astronomer Gerard van Belle, of Lowell Observatory near Flagstaff, Ariz., who hopes to use an interferometer to carry out the mind-blowing goal of capturing the silhouettes of exoplanets drifting in front of distant stars. But that's not all: this whole effort may help us track down the first bona fide Earth-like alien world." In case you missed it, NASA posted a bunch of great footage and pictures of the Venus transit, as did Boston.com's The Big Picture. Phil Plait pointed out a cool shot from Thierry Legault of a transit during a transit.

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That thing was blocking my reading light (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269469)

We shoulda blown it outta the sky before they invade anyway.

Ohhhhh...! Too good, too good! (-1)

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When Hollywood gets it right (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269497)

It made me wonder when I started to see pictures and video of the transit where I had seen something similar before. In Danny Boyles 'Sunshine', they have a CG scene of Mercury passing between them and the sun. It looks exactly like what we saw this week.

Maybe I am looking for another excuse to wear my tinfoil hat, but what happens if in order to get attention companies like NASA start simply releasing artistic impression as real ones? 50s through 80's saw drawings and artistic work used to help us gain a prospective of Science. Now it can fool us into thinking things exist.

Re:When Hollywood gets it right (2)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269537)

Maybe I am looking for another excuse to wear my tinfoil hat, but what happens if in order to get attention companies like NASA start simply releasing artistic impression as real ones?

Because NASA can't fake it. You could have seen the same in your backyard (clouds permitting) with $10 in parts.

Re:When Hollywood gets it right (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269575)

How do you know that NASA didn't just put a giant disc in space to block the Sun and look like Venus?

Teach the controversy! Venus is a myth!

Duh, NASA isn't really in space (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270789)

They've never been in space. It was a domestic spy drone. It's just another one of the Obamalist coverups, wrapped in a NASA conspiracy.

It's like you don't know anything. ;-)

Re:When Hollywood gets it right (0)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269861)

Because NASA can't fake it. You could have seen the same in your backyard (clouds permitting) with $10 in parts.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I get the distinct impression that the Solar Dynamic Observatory (the satellite that took the neat pics) costs slightly more than $10.

Or did we devalue the dollar big time last week? I was only gone for a couple of days. Sheesh. Nobody ever tells me anything anymore....

Re:When Hollywood gets it right (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270785)

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I get the distinct impression that the Solar Dynamic Observatory (the satellite that took the neat pics) costs slightly more than $10.

Point is that you could have seen the transit yourself, merely, by being out in the backyard with some very cheap gear. There is some valid concern that a satellite or instrument will "sex up" observations merely because there's no means to double-check the observation, but even in those cases, the technology generally isn't so out of reach that one can't replicate the observation with cheaper equipment some point in the future.

Re:When Hollywood gets it right (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270895)

Well, they certainly could have done that - and on some of the clips it looked like there was some wash through of the sun's surface through the Venus disk. But what exactly would be the point? It's not like they faked a moon landing or an Arquillian battle cruiser or something like that.

But, hey, if you guys want to wear your tinfoil, I'd be the last to complain. Whatever floats your boat.

Just stay grounded.

Re:When Hollywood gets it right (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40271533)

But what exactly would be the point?

Continued funding for the instrument, obviously. I think here the temptation would be strongest, if the instrument wasn't working properly at the time.

Another example of this sort of suspicion is the Chinese Chang'e 1 mission, which was a lunar orbiter which imaged the Moon's surface in the late 00s. It was falsely accused of using copied images from the Clementine mission. But there's no doubt that there would have been considerable pressure on the group that was running the mission.

My view is that the temptation is there, but there's also a great risk of getting caught, especially with the paranoid and the delusional scrutinizing images from every mission.

Re:When Hollywood gets it right (2)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#40272031)

The pictures of the transit are meaningless to me. Well, to be more specific, whether or not they are fake makes no difference to me. All I can appreciate is the beauty of the pictures. They were quite beautiful too.

What cannot be faked is the science behind it. I'm sure there was valuable scientific data collected that is being pored over right now, and papers authored, and so on and so forth.

If they faked the pictures, it would stand to reason they are also faking the data. I would imagine some people much more skilled in astrophysics could pick up on that.

As far as I am concerned, the pictures visually depicted the transit to me and were stunning. Computer generated or not, they served their purpose.

Re:When Hollywood gets it right (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40272305)

What cannot be faked is the science behind it.

Sure, it can. Fake the data and you've faked the science. What you are speaking of is a considerably elevated chance of getting caught. In that sense, sure I agree that it's unlikely that someone would try to fake the science. There's too much independent studies which might turn up contradictions with your claims. OTOH, it's going to be very hard to arrange another Venus transit (would require a spacecraft sent into the shadow of Venus since it's not happening to Earth anytime soon).

Re:When Hollywood gets it right (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#40272355)

considerably elevated chance of getting caught

You're right and that is what I meant.

NASA was not the only group of people looking with very sensitive instruments. I'm sure plenty of groups spent that day collecting data and if NASA came up with anything that deviated too strongly from everyone else it would be suspicious.

OTOH, it's going to be very hard to arrange another Venus transit

That does put a damper on reproducibility doesn't it? :)

Note to submitter (5, Insightful)

guttentag (313541) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269505)

If you have to use gimmicks like:
  • Starting your summary with "Forget... Soon we'll be able to..."
  • Using phrases like "wowed" and "mind-blowing"
  • Closing with "but that's not all"

It's generally a warning to readers that either there is no substance to what you're going to tell us, or we're about to hear the breathlessly-excited gossip of a 13-year old.

Try to stick to concisely telling us the facts, and let the story is be impressive on its own merits.

Re:Note to submitter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269547)

Yeah, seriously! This isn't exciting. Wake me when we can image some alien boobs, now that'll be worth a story!

  Personally, I don't care how many she has, as long as it's am even number... And I'd prefer them to be bilaterally symmetrical, but radial symmetry would be okay, I guess. Just so long as there's boobies from space.

Re:Note to submitter (-1, Offtopic)

antonihome (2658485) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269663)

Re:Note to submitter (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 2 years ago | (#40272511)

huh?

Re:Note to submitter (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269797)

But that's not all: For just another $9.98 you can get your very own slashdot blurb! Order now, operators are standing by!

Re:Note to submitter (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40270893)

Not even mentioned in blurb or linked article was the handily relevant fact that Pluto was first seen at the same observatory, albeit a different telescope. How poor.
Thankfully a 437 meter effective optical aperture is not a 13 year old's girly gossip. Keep practicing, Mr. astroengine.

Re:Note to submitter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40273283)

If you have to use gimmicks like:

You forgot to mention the gimmick of redundantly calling them "alien worlds". It's not Earth, so it's an alien world by definition. But re-iterating it makes people conjure up images of E.T. and gets more clicks.

I was talking to a friend of mine about the transi (4, Interesting)

tlambert (566799) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269783)

Moderately off topic...

My friend was very upset that she did not get to see it in person.

It seems a lot of newsspeak organizations were quoting "experts" that "there will be plenty of people with setups to view it", and that "the apparatus to view it is dead simple". But she didn't get to see it /directly/ because there were not sufficiently scientifically inclined people set up in her area to let her see it.

All it required a small amount of optics (binoculars), a mirror, and something to project the image onto. Getting to this point was beyond her, and it was beyond the people she worked with. It really drives home to me how disconnected science programs in schools are from cause/effect in reality.

It makes me wonder how much stuff that is "obvious" to us just doesn't filter down into the impact it makes on humans everyday lives.

This reminds me very much of a discussion I had with someone about "the theory of evolution" when I pointed out that dropping an object was a demonstration of "the theory of gravity". She was appalled that gravity was considered a theory from a scientific point of view -- "You mean you don't know how this stuff works?!?"; I had to explain that yes, we knew *how* it worked, we just didn't know *why* -- the same as evolution.

The idea that people can do science (maybe Science, with a capitol 'S'?) with stuff they have lying around their house is probably not emphasized enough; it made me want to become a science teacher, but of course I'm not qualified, only being a physicist and a computer scientist, and not havig a degree in education, or being a member of a teachers union.

Makes me worry about the future more than I already do.

-- Terry

Re:I was talking to a friend of mine about the tra (3, Interesting)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269889)

I was reading an article when the solar eclipse was coming about and the upcoming Venus event on yahoo. I was astounded and dismayed to see the comments below, with so many people asking, "Can someone reply to me and tell me about this? I'm too lazy to read the article." I normally either ignore idiotic comments or try to make reasonable discussion, but in these cases, I replied somewhere along the lines, "Fuck off, read it yourself."

I mean, to think--it's not as if the article was riffed from a super-scientific study that required a master's in science and astronomy to make sense of it. It's one thing if someone DOES read it and wants further information, but to have someone act like they can't be bothered but find it cool anyway but can't be bothered... it actually makes me angry, because you just know how many of them would eat up a stupid report about 'Jersey Shore' without asking for internet Cliff Notes. Maybe I'm just an astronomy snob (I had a coworker say "it's the same thing, really," when I pointed out that astronomy and astrology were NOT the same thing; I gritted my teeth about it all day), but if you want to discover something cool, sometimes you gotta read a few paragraphs. /end rant

Re:I was talking to a friend of mine about the tra (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269923)

Makes me worry about the future more than I already do.

""Cheer up, Flicka. Always remember that, when things seem darkest, they usually get considerably worse."

Heinlein "Podkayne of Mars", 1953. In a quote that is one of the earliest written references [technovelgy.com] to a cell phone. How's that for going off topic?

Re:I was talking to a friend of mine about the tra (2)

I_am_Jack (1116205) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270429)

The idea that people can do science (maybe Science, with a capitol 'S'?) with stuff they have lying around their house is probably not emphasized enough; it made me want to become a science teacher, but of course I'm not qualified, only being a physicist and a computer scientist, and not having a degree in education, or being a member of a teachers union.

As entrenched and parochial as the university academic establishment is these days, being a secondary school instructor should seem like a breath of fresh air. Unless you've got an assistant/associate professor's gig at a medium to large university, the pay would be about the same, and there are usually more science teachers needed than research associates. Not to mention the lives you could change, even if you just made a fraction of each graduating class learn to love science more.

Re:I was talking to a friend of mine about the tra (1)

Occams (2422082) | more than 2 years ago | (#40278989)

Whats the big deal? Planits are transiting the sun every day: we are just not in the right place to see them, The usefulness of this event ended 200 years ago. Get over it.

It it NOT an invitation (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269837)

Don't let some goofy scientist tell you otherwise.

Resolution (3, Informative)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269859)

From TFA:

We're not just trying to take pictures of stars and see them as disks -- which is something we can do

That was new to me, so I did some digging. The Hubble was the first telescope to do this, in 1996 [hubblesite.org] . It's quite incredible that we can now do this.

Annoyingly, searching Google for 'image disk star' gives loads of false positives (protoplanetary disks).

Re:Resolution (1)

arobatino (46791) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269947)

Although not a direct image, Betelgeuse [wikipedia.org] was also the first star (other than the Sun) to have its angular diameter measured by interferometry, in 1920.

Re:Resolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40270955)

You're looking for "Interferometric Imaging" and it is a very new field, so not many pictures exist yet. Most simply indicate apparent brightness differences on the star surface.
Hold on to yer pants, this is gonna be a wild ride for sure! :D
Here you go: http://www.astro.psu.edu/people/mxz20/rapdi_rotator_lineup.png/view

2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40269869)

There was an intergalactic alignment and so the world just ended!

Hubble-Bubble (3, Insightful)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269927)

The last link is just awesomesauce. That is all.

Re:Hubble-Bubble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40273275)

The last link is just awesomesauce. That is all.

His ISS capture during an eclipse [discovermagazine.com] also!

What the Transit of Venus tells us (2)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40269951)

Using the 'wait until a planet crosses between us and the star it is orbitting" is not a particularly effective way of finding other planets
.
Unless we are in the same plane as the system, we are not going to find anything, and even then its not going to happen very often.

Re:What the Transit of Venus tells us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40270329)

And the other methods we have to locate such planets are so much more accurate..........?

Re:What the Transit of Venus tells us (3, Insightful)

IDarkISwordI (811835) | more than 2 years ago | (#40271193)

And yet Kepler has already recorded hundreds of planets, more than ever before observed, using this exact method.

Yeah, I think the dip in brightness thing is BS (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270835)

Whats the difference between a planet passing in front of it's star or Colossus flicking a bugar? Please the time spans with a cyclical analysis sounds to intensive.

Re:Yeah, I think the dip in brightness thing is BS (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 2 years ago | (#40272527)

What?
first, one is real and the other is something you made up...
second, we don't get to see venus close to us very often so that's why it's talked about.

I'm thinking you're just trolling, but I figure I'll at least let you talk before we drop the floorboard.

Re:Yeah, I think the dip in brightness thing is BS (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 2 years ago | (#40279149)

OOoh. Very spicy U r. Trolling.? Hmm. No not really. I was in fact, referring to the imaging from great distances. At those distances just about anything could come between a star and a telescope. An asteroid, sputnik, dead aliens, the Prometheus. I'm not an expert on light. You sound like you are. Please provide your credentials and expound.

Re:Yeah, I think the dip in brightness thing is BS (1)

Maritz (1829006) | more than 2 years ago | (#40306493)

Space is a lot emptier than the picture you seem to have in your head.

Amazing pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40272359)

and I have a picture of a car moving past my house.

Yet another case of the Slashdot summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40272965)

image the event

Wrong.

capturing the silhouettes of exoplanets drifting in front of distant stars

Wrong. RTFA before posting a summary, please.

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