Scientists are planning to use NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to observe next month’s historic transit of Venus across the sun’s face.
But there’s a twist. Researchers can’t point Hubble anywhere near the sun, because our star’s bright light could damage the telescope’s super-sensitive instruments. So Hubble will watch the June 5-6 Venus transit by using the moon as a mirror.
The goal is to see if Hubble can determine the makeup of Venus’ atmosphere by studying sunlight that has poured through it. Astronomers already know a great deal about Venus’ air, so next month’s observations are a test run to see if the technique could be used to determine the atmospheric composition of faraway alien planets, researchers said.
Scientists hope the method can help them find an “alien Earth,” a habitable planet much like our own, orbiting a distant star. Venus is an excellent proxy for this search because it’s nearly the same size and mass as Earth, researchers said.