Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hubble to use moon as mirror to see Venus transit

Date:
May 4, 2012
Source:
NASA/ Hubble
Summary:
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope will study Venus's atmosphere during an upcoming opportunity where Venus is passing in front of the Sun. Hubble cannot look at the Sun directly, so astronomers are planning to point the telescope at the Moon, using it as a mirror. The next time Venus will pass in front of the Sun will be in the year 2117.

During the transit of Venus across the Sun's face on June 5-6, 2011, the Hubble Space Telescope will be looking in the opposite direction — at the Moon. Hubble cannot look at the Sun directly, so astronomers are planning to use the Moon as a mirror to capture reflected sunlight and isolate the small fraction of the light that passes through Venus's atmosphere. Imprinted on that light are the fingerprints of the planet's atmospheric makeup. This is an experiment to see how well Venus's atmosphere can be studied spectroscopically, as a proxy for transit observations of extrasolar planets.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

This mottled landscape showing the impact crater Tycho is among the most violent-looking places on our Moon. Astronomers didn't aim NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study Tycho, however. The image was taken in preparation to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun's face on June 5-6.

Related Articles


Hubble cannot look at the Sun directly, so astronomers are planning to point the telescope at Earth's moon, using it as a mirror to capture reflected sunlight and isolate the small fraction of the light that passes through Venus's atmosphere. Imprinted on that small amount of light are the fingerprints of the planet's atmospheric makeup.

These observations will mimic a technique that is already being used to sample the atmospheres of giant planets outside our solar system passing in front of their stars. In the case of the Venus transit observations, astronomers already know the chemical makeup of Venus's atmosphere, and that it does not show signs of life on the planet. But the Venus transit will be used to test whether this technique will have a chance of detecting the very faint fingerprints of an Earth-like planet, even one that might be habitable for life, outside our solar system that similarly transits its own star. Venus is an excellent proxy because it is similar in size and mass to our planet.

The astronomers will use an arsenal of Hubble instruments, the Advanced Camera for Surveys, Wide Field Camera 3, and Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, to view the transit in a range of wavelengths, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. During the transit, Hubble will snap images and perform spectroscopy, dividing the sunlight into its constituent colors, which could yield information about the makeup of Venus's atmosphere.

Hubble will observe the Moon for seven hours, before, during, and after the transit so the astronomers can compare the data. Astronomers need the long observation because they are looking for extremely faint spectral signatures. Only 1/100,000th of the sunlight will filter through Venus's atmosphere and be reflected off the Moon.

This image, taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, reveals lunar features as small as roughly 560 feet (170 meters) across. The large "bulls-eye" near the top of the picture is the impact crater, caused by an asteroid strike about 100 million years ago. The bright trails radiating from the crater were formed by material ejected from the impact area during the asteroid collision. Tycho is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide and is circled by a rim of material rising almost 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the crater floor. The image measures 430 miles (700 kilometers) across, which is slightly larger than New Mexico.

Because the astronomers only have one shot at observing the transit, they had to carefully plan how the study would be carried out. Part of their planning included the test observations of the Moon, made on Jan. 11, 2012, as shown in the release image.

Hubble will need to be locked onto the same location on the Moon for more than seven hours, the transit's duration. For roughly 40 minutes of each 96-minute orbit of Hubble around Earth, Earth occults Hubble's view of the Moon. So, during the test observations, the astronomers wanted to make sure they could point Hubble to precisely the same target area.

This is the last time this century sky watchers can view Venus passing in front of the Sun. The next transit won't happen until 2117. Venus transits occur in pairs, separated by eight years. The last event was witnessed in 2004.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/ Hubble. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/ Hubble. "Hubble to use moon as mirror to see Venus transit." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120504135730.htm>.
NASA/ Hubble. (2012, May 4). Hubble to use moon as mirror to see Venus transit. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120504135730.htm
NASA/ Hubble. "Hubble to use moon as mirror to see Venus transit." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120504135730.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Rumble (Jan. 27, 2015) Scientists working with NASA&apos;s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California discovered an unexpected moon while observing asteroid 2004 BL86 during its recent flyby past Earth. Credit to &apos;NASA JPL&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage into space. The aquatic crustaceans, known as Daphnia, can be used as a miniature model for biomedical research, and their reproductive and swimming behaviour will be tested for signs of stress while on board the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mars Rover Opportunity Celebrates 11-Year Anniversary

Mars Rover Opportunity Celebrates 11-Year Anniversary

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) Eleven years ago NASA&apos;s Opportunity rover touched down on Mars for what was only supposed to be a 90-day mission. Since then it has traveled 25.9 miles (41.7 kilometers), further than any other off-Earth surface vehicle has ever driven. Credit to &apos;NASA&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's On Course To Take Pluto's Best Photo Ever

NASA's On Course To Take Pluto's Best Photo Ever

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) NASA&apos;s New Horizons probe is en route to snap a picture of Pluto this summer, but making sure it doesn&apos;t miss its one chance to do so starts now. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins