On June 5/6, 2012, the planet Venus crossed the face of the Sun. This event, called a transit, was seen across the Earth by people who viewed it in person as well as online live. I asked for pictures, and received dozens of them from readers all over the world - and above it! I chose the images in this gallery because they made me smile, they made me laugh, and they made me proud of how wonderful the Universe is, and how we humans appreciate it.
All these pictures are used by permission.
This astonishing picture was taken just 30 hours before the transit began, when the Sun and Venus were separated by only 2.3 degrees (for comparison, the Sun itself is 1/2 a degree across). The ring around Venus is due to sunlight scattered through the thick atmosphere of the planet. The picture was taken using the 0.73-meter National Solar Observatory/Dunn Solar Telescope.
Credit: NSO/DST - IBIS; INAF / Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri
Another whimsical shot by Twitter user Ingrum. Make your own Venus joke here.
Jose Mtanous took this wonderful picture, so full of metaphor it brings a lump to my throat. To innocently reach for the stars...
Very careful placement was used to get this shot by Lindsay Miller. It took me a second to figure out where Venus was, too.
Using a pair of binoculars to project twin images of the transit on a wall, a little angling gave Michael Hess this great shot that made me laugh out loud when I saw it.
As the Sun set behind some trees, the camera Mike Palmer used to take this shot focused on the forground objects, and not the planet and star millions of times farther away.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory witnessed the entire transit. The proof? This amazing composite image, comprising 15 different images of the transit as Venus moved from one side of the Sun to the other. The entire event took 7 hours... though you have add a bit more to include the planet blocking light from the Sun's corona, its superheated atmosphere.
This incredible event took a while to unfold, but it was seen by so many, and with an amazing array of tools. We'll learn more about Venus from this, and about planets orbiting other stars, too. But I think the most important thing is that this literally opened the eyes of a lot of people and showed them the wonder and joy of the Universe around them.
Credit: NASA/SDO; HMI
Rob Ford took this unusual shot of the transit with clouds rolling across the sky. Venus is the dot in the upper right, just above the clouds covering part of the Sun. I especially like the multiple faint images of the Sun due to internal reflections in his camera.
NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory took this jaw-dropping picture of Venus and the Sun in the far ultraviolet part of the spectrum (17.1 nanometers), where magnetic activity on the Sun creates stunning loops, filaments, and prominences. Venus, so obvious in the other photos, is seen in silhouette and nearly lost in the chaos of the solar surface.
Adam Wolny and his wife worked hard to get a shot of the transit, and just as they did a second transit took place! The plane couldn't have taken more than a fraction of a second to cross the Sun, so the timing here was truly phenomenal.
An almost impossibly round Venus hovers over the fiery surface of the Sun in this NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory picture taken in the ultraviolet (30.4 nanometers). Solar activity in large regions glows fiercely - false-colored to look orange, but the resemblance between the solar surface and lake of fire is plain to see anyway.
The circularity of the planet is no illusion: its diameters through its poles and equator are virtually identical, making it the most spherical planet in the solar system.
Twitter user Ingrum took this delightful picture of his daughter, who decided the Venus transit was something she wanted to taste.
This picture may take the prize for weirdest shot of the transit: the Sun looks squashed because near the horizon, atmospheric effects flatten it. If you've never seen a sunset quite this squishy, it's because you can't... at least, not from Earth. This picture was taken by astronaut Don Petit aboard the International Space Station! It was one of hundreds he took; click the link to see many, many more.
Spencer Smith took this picture near LAX using an 8-inch telescope. He happened to catch a plane moving across the Sun - not too surprising, given his location - as well the top of a power pole (note the insulators) and what look like parallel layers of haze lining the Sun as well.