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Mystery Photo

What in the world is it?

Mystery Photo

Don’t peek at the answer until you’ve given this a good try! Then, scroll down a bit and the truth will be revealed to you.

(Image Credit: NOAA’s Soft X-ray Imager (SXI))

A boiling cauldron of lava? The Sun with a heat rash? Well, it is the Sun. But it’s an X-ray image. Not only that, look at the tiny black dots at the bottom of the Sun’s image. That’s the planet Venus, which passed in front of our star for the first time since 1882! It’s called a transit of Venus, and it’s a rare event.

As seen from Earth, only transits of Mercury and Venus are possible. On average, there are 13 transits of Mercury each century. In contrast, transits of Venus occur in pairs with more than a century separating each pair. Prior to 2004, no living person had seen a transit of Venus. But that situation changed on June 8th. The event was seen by millions across Europe, Africa, and Asia. Also, for the first time in history, astronomers observed an X-ray transit of Venus across the Sun. This image was taken by NASA’s GOES 12 satellite!

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