Our Last Transit of Venus
In June 2012 planet Venus passed across the disk of the Sun as seen from the Earth: a Transit of Venus. These transits occur in pairs (8 year separation between events) every approximately 100 years. The 2004/2012 Transit was the last one, the next pair will be in 2117 and 2125.
This is my film project about this unique event. I started this project in 2011 and I have been following the scientists from the Venus Twilight Experiment (VTE), led by Thomas Widemann (Observatoire de Paris-Meudon, France) and Paolo Tanga (Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, Nice, France). The goal of the VTE is to study the structure of the high atmosphere of Venus by means of the so-called aureole effect that happens just before and just after the transit. This is new science! Transits in the past (first one observed in 1639 in the UK) were used to determine the scale of the Solar System. Read more about how this project originated at this link on the EuroPlanet website.
With support from the European Planetology Network, I followed Thomas Widemann up to the Arctic (Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway) where he observed the transit. This was the only place in Europe where the Sun could be seen during the European night, when the transit took place. For the VTE Paolo Tanga went to the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona in the USA. There were other teams at Hawai’i, Australia, Marquesas Islands, Japan, India and Kazakhstan.
In Svalbard there was also a team of scientists related to the European Venus Express mission and a team from ESA / ESAC. I covered the event in Svalbard, making a series short videos placed online in almost real time.
Later in 2012 I visited Madrid during the European Planetary Science Congress, where I interviewed the two teams from ESA / ESAC who had observed the transit both from Svalbard and Australia. Their goal was to repeat the measurement of the scale of the Solar System. I made a special video about their activities, which is included in this series.
In the summer of 2015 I visited Paolo Tanga at Nice to do a final interview about the status of the research on the aureole. In the mean time Paolo had also invited me to help with the reduction of the VTE data, preparing all the useful images for analysis, a task I gladly accepted.
In April 2016 I finished the final film in this series focussing on the Venus Twilight Experiment. The film premièred at the Venus conference held in Oxford, UK, from 4-8 of April 2016. I have had the chance to work with composer and Glass Armonica player William Zeitler, who has composed music for my transit films. The Venus Twilight Experiment film features a special music score by William with only five “instruments”: the glass armonica, the piano, the organ, the cello and soprano voice. The cello is played by Ilse de Ziah and Dorothea Mead soprano is performing as the soprano.
The film was screened at three festivals: the MovieScreenPro Film Festival 2017 in February 2017, the BICC Bienial Internacional de Cine Científico in November 2016 in Ronda, Andalusia, Spain, and the 2016 European Science TV and New Media Festival and Awards in Lisbon, Portugal in December 2016.
In 2012 William composed a dedicated piece for the glass armonica and orchestra, called ‘The Last Transit of Venus’. He performed the piece life in Los Angeles during the Transit. He also filmed him performing it in front of a green screen and I edited a “music” video of it, which has been seen 260,000 times (March 2016). Interesting to note is that the glass armonica was introduced in 1761, the year of the first Venus transit in the 18th century!
In addition I am working on a curated archive so that data, results, films, photos and memories will be transmitted for those living at the time of the next Transits of Venus!
Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences / European Planetary Science Congress 2016
The Transit in 2012
An original music video
Presentations at the Annual Meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences / European Planetary Science Congress 2011