Arc of Venus to Appear Tuesday and Wednesday

arc ring of Venus

(Best Syndication News) Astronomers will be watching the planet Venus on June 5th and 6th as it travels between the sun and the earth. They hope to learn more about the planet by studying the Arc of Venus, a phenomena seen in 2004 as the sun’s rays passed through the atmosphere of the planet.

Astronomers in 1639 used the transit of Venus across the sun to estimate the size of the solar system. On Tuesday they hope to discover the secret to the planet’s super-rotation. While the planet’s spin takes 243 earth days, the atmosphere circumnavigates the planet in just four days.

In 2004 astronomers noticed a glow from the planet’s atmosphere when Venus was ending its transition across the sun. An arc, or ring, of fire could be seen across the upper atmosphere of Venus (see image).

"I was flabbergasted when I first saw it during the 2004 transit," said astronomy professor Jay Pasachoff of Williams College. "A bright, glowing rim appeared around the edge of Venus soon after it began to move into the sun."

Today scientists believe they have the answer. Although Venus is similar in size and orbit to earth, the planet’s atmosphere is mostly CO2. The compression of the atmosphere and the high temperatures produce clouds of sulfuric acid.

As Venus passes through the arc of the sun, sunlight is refracted through the layers of air above the cloud-tops. This creates an arc that can be seen with a backyard telescope.

The refraction of the sunlight can tell researchers a little about the atmosphere of Venus. The upper atmosphere, called the mesosphere, is believed to be the key to understanding the super-rotation of gases. By analyzing the arc of Venus this week, NASA hopes to figure out the temperature and density of this layer of the atmosphere.

By: Julie Marcus
Science Reporter

Image: Courtesy of NASA

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