We have used the 2004 June 8 transit of Venus (ToV) as a surrogate to test observing methods, strategies, and techniques that are being contemplated for future space missions to detect and characterize extrasolar terrestrial planets (ETPs) as they transit their host stars, notably NASA's Kepler mission, planned for 2008. As an analog to "Kepler-like" photometric transit observations, we obtained (spatially unresolved) radiometric observations with the ACRIM 3 instrument on ACRIMSAT at a sampling cadence of 131 s to follow the effect of the ToV on the total solar irradiance (TSI). Contemporaneous high-resolution broadband imagery with NASA's TRACE spacecraft provided, directly, measures of the stellar (solar) astrophysical noise that can intrinsically limit such transit observations. During the Venus transit, which lasted ∼5.5 hr, the planet's angular diameter was approximately 1/32 the solar diameter, thus covering ∼0.1 % of the stellar surface. With our ACRIM 3 data, we measure temporal changes in TSI with a 1 σ per sample (unbinned) uncertainty of approximately 100 mW m-2 (0.007%). A diminution in TSI of ∼1.4 W m-2 (∼0.1%, closely corresponding to the geometrically occulted area of the photosphere) was measured at mid-transit compared with a mean pre-/post-transit TSI of ∼1365.9 W m -2. The radiometric light curve is complex because of the parallactic motion of Venus induced by ACRIMSAT's near-polar orbit, but exhibits the characteristic signature of photospheric limb darkening. These observations serve as a surrogate for future photometric observations of ETPs, such as Kepler will deliver. Detailed analysis of the ToV, a rare event within our own solar system, with time-resolved radiometry augmented with high-resolution imagery, provides a useful analog for investigating the detectability and characterization of ETPs from observations that are anticipated in the near future.
- Planets and satellites: individual (Venus)
- Techniques: photometric
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science