Star gazers (and perhaps legions of movie fans) will have their eyes on the sky today to catch a glimpse of The Transit of Venus, a rare celestial event that occurs when the planet passes directly between Earth and the sun. Such transits help us to identify the capacity for life on other worlds as they move across the face of their home star. It was a transit like this that helped the scientists at Weyland Industries identify life on a distant world, which would ultimately lead to a world-changing, exploratory space mission aboard the ship The Prometheus.
So is the Transit of Venus timing and the release of the Ridley Scott film a coincidence? The heavens reveal all beginning this afternoon. You won't want to miss it - the last one was in 1874, later inspiring Gustav Holst to write "The Planets." And if you'd like some company, catch it via livestream hosted by Astronomers Without Borders and Discovery News at NASA.gov.
"Planetary transits may seem like no more than an entertaining celestial event, but they could uncover the kind of world depicted in Ridley Scott's new film, Prometheus, said Seth Shostak, of SETI Institute. "When planets hundreds of light-years away pass in front of their home star, they slightly dim the light from that star. NASA's Kepler space telescope has found more than two thousand such transits, and discovers new ones every day. Within a year or two, it's expected that this instrument will find a planet that's a cousin of the Earth -- one laquered in liquid oceans, and wrapped in a thick atmosphere. Such a world could well be home to extraterrestrial biology -- and possibly even intelligent beings. The premise of Prometheus is well grounded in modern research."