A fascinating video has captured Venus’ movement around the solar system as it is caught in the sun’s glare.
On Thursday evening, solar expert Keith Strong posted video of a coronagraph to Twitter showing a glowing light coming into view on the right side of the clip.
A coronagraph is a scientific instrument designed to block out the Sun’s direct light so astronomers can take a look at its corona — the scorchingly hot outer layer of the Sun’s atmosphere.
Therefore, Coronagraph videos and images have a black circle in the center obscuring the sun, while the ghostly white light around the circle is the energy emitted by the sun.
Coronagraph images are useful for detecting all types of solar activity, from solar flares to coronal mass ejections. In addition, they can also be used to detect non-solar objects.
“What on earth is that?” Strong tweeted, next to the Coronagraph clip below. “A bright object comes into view at the right edge of the image, moving in the opposite direction to the stars.”
Like the sun, the object seemed to give off an eerie glow.
Strong explained that the object was actually the planet Venus, which is currently on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth.
“Coronagraphs are designed to look at the very faint solar corona,” said Martin Archer, a space physicist and science communicator news week. “Planets, on the other hand, are very bright and tend to become saturated in the detectors. Because of this, they generally look much larger than they really are and are often surrounded by lens flare.
“This is likely the reason for the bright light patterns around Venus in the video, with these effects being particularly strong since Venus is on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth — highly illuminated.”
Mathew Owens, Professor of Space Physics at the University of Reading in the UK, reiterated the point.
“So while Venus is small enough to be basically a single pixel in the camera, it’s so bright that it ‘bleeds’ into the surrounding pixels,” he said news week. “This generally happens when planets and comets move into the coronagraph’s field of view.
“It’s a bit like wearing night vision goggles and looking into car headlights.”
NASA’s Stereo Science Center website is currently showing a sort of bird’s-eye view of the positions of the planets in the inner solar system. It shows that Venus is actually on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, meaning we see it bathed in sunlight.