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Venus sails across sun in rare display

Transit events happen in pairs separated by more than a century

By
8:52pm, December 13, 2012

2012 SCIENCE NEWS TOP 25: 22

Millions of eyes followed Venus’ steady June voyage across the sun’s surface, the coal-black dot sailing in front of a blazing golden orb (SN: 6/30/12, p. 11). The spectacle was the second in the recent pair of Venus transits; the first was in 2004.

At the beginning and tail end of Venus’ six-hour journey in 2004 — before and after the planet was completely silhouetted by the sun — astronomers saw something they had been hoping for: Faint wisps of Venus’ upper atmosphere winked clearly into view. This year’s event handed scientists another opportunity to learn about Venus’ gaseous clouds, like why they spin faster than the planet itself. “We got a second chanc

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