TRACE images Mercury but not Venus, Hubble is an expensive lost cause

( all of astronomy still can't seem to locate that much larger Venus )
( by; Brad Guth / IEIS    updated: November 09, 2002 )

The latest paragraph update is regarding a firmware/software override as for Hubble imaging Venus at 6+ degrees off direct solar impact and, also something further regarding the key science parameters of TRACE.

Here's another recent "positive" thought;  How about our simply relocating TRACE to VL2, as TRACE could obviously navigate off station from time to time in order to accomplish an even better job of recording solar activity, but then as for utilizing VL2 as sort of the primary garage or nearly solar safe zone, as most of the sun would be blocked out by Venus, thus full nighttime communications monitoring and subsequent relay functions could coexist along with scanning the perimeter of the sun. Oh dear, I just specified something that would be beneficial for humanity without really interfearing, if anything improving, with the existing mission of TRACE and, all of that accomplished for the same buck (I guess that suggestion will only get me further into their penalty box).

This is a page/link chuck full of TRACE images (very long download):

Not that the rest of this page offers all that much to do with TRACE (as apparently TRACE has recently expended a considerable amount of it's resources, so as to be hiding behind Earth);  For now, here's the full contex reply(s) from Bradford Behr of the McDonald Observatory. I already stiipulated that I wanted to post something official as for safely viewing Venus when it's being so close but not crossing the sun. So, this was the first reply.

Hi Brad --
It is possible to directly observe the Sun, and solar transits of Venus and Mercury, but you do have to be EXTREMELY careful. You can do serious, permanent damage to your eyes or your equipment unless you have a special solar filter firmly attached to the FRONT end of your telescope. Generic smoked glass or exposed photographic emulsions often do NOT block enough UV and infrared radiation, and filters which go on the eyepiece are at risk of melting from the focused solar energy. You should acquire a filter designed specifically for solar viewing, or arcwelders glass for naked-eye observing. Sky & Telescope magazine has a some good guides:
Your other option is to simply wait until Venus is 10 or more degrees away from the Sun, and catch it just after sunset or just before sunrise. In the weeks before and after closest approach to the Earth, Venus will still be quite large in apparent size, and most of its dark side will be visible, with just a thin crescent of illumination.

As for viewing with "space platform instruments", it's true that many of the best-known orbiting telescopes, like the Hubble, can't be aimed towards the Sun, because they're designed to look at very faint, distant objects, and the power of the focused sunlight (even the glare many degrees away from the Sun) would destroy their sensitive light detectors. However, there are other satellites that are designed to look at the Sun full-time, and they've been able to catch some Mercury transits in the past few years -- see
You can be sure that some of these solar scopes will be keep a close eye on the upcoming Venus transits in 2004 and 2012. Venus might come into the field of view of these solar monitoring systems during the conjunction this month, depending on how close to the Sun it's going to get.
Hope this helps you with your viewing plans. Please be VERY cautious, but enjoy the view! Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.
Bradford Behr
McDonald Observatory

I just had a look-see at the above TRACE (ap991119.html) link and, lo and behold, there's little old mercury, with it's dark side facing Earth and, it's not but 1/6th the size that Venus will be representing. Obviously Trace could track and deliver at much greater illumination sensitivity upon Venus, especially if Venus is not crossing the solar surface and those highly reflective nighttime clouds are being illuminated by Earth (an extremely bright and somewhat colorful [meaning that the naked lizard eye can differenciate upon such qualities] globe, appearing to Venus as roughly 4% the diameter of our moon appears to us). Folks, that's big and damn bright.

According to astronomer Bradford Behr, there's not all that much that Hubble can safely mange, however, I still can't seriously imagine placing such a spendy instrument like Hubble without sufficient filters but, then exactly how close can Venus be to the Sun and yet technically being safely viewed as by Hubble is still a question I'm hoping to uncover, like it's "field of view" (seems my critics, if they be honest and forthcoming, would have long ago shared this bit of info). At this juncture (0.27AU), I believe Hubble can technically image within 4.25% of the diameter of Venus and, obviously that's excluding the sun from being anywhere near those sensitive CCD's. Obviously there would be a degree of whatever refractions and/or barrel illuminations (in space those reflections shouldn't amount to all that much) and, I still believe those should be below any threshold of photon impaling sensitive CCD's, after all, the greater portion of Venus is but illuminated via Earth. Otherwise, perhaps capturing Venus as but one degree away from the sun should be sufficient, as the space surrounding that area is nearly black, except for those massive flares which should normally be contained within 0.1 degree off the surface, an area sort of representing solar atmosphere.

Also according to Bradford Behr, Venus will become no closer then 6 degrees south of the sun (now I can tell team TRACE, since they don't seem to know, where to go looking for Venus) and, for an instrument such as Hubble (not to mention TRACE), obviously with such capable tracking and thereby assurances of avoiding any direct solar impact upon those sensitive CCD's, that 5+ degree buffer zone should be more then sufficient. Obviously that's only possible if firmware and/or auto-protect software is given the essential override. The question is not so much weather or not Hubble or TRACE could do the job but, what's ET worth these days, as opposed to sustaining whatever "avoidance" and "disinformation"?.

In my reply to Bradford, I asked the following;
I can't seriously imagine placing such a spendy instrument like Hubble without sufficient filters... You mentioned 10 degrees from the sun for viewing from Earth, but how about for Hubble (how close) ?

"Well, that's exactly the point -- after spending billions of dollars on Hubble, the last thing they want to do is fry it by pointing too close to the Sun. It might have been possible to equip the scope with front-end filters, but that would have made it even more expensive, and it still wouldn't be as good for solar viewing as specialized satellites like SOHO and YOHKOH. It's often better to build a couple of specialized telescopes than a single all-purpose telescope."

"The official maneuvering rules restrict Hubble from pointing within 45 degrees of the Sun,, and the aperture door at the front end of the tube will close automatically if it ever gets closer than 20 degrees to the Sun. Venus can get as far as 46 or 47 degrees from the Sun, so there would be a small window of opportunity during these periods of "maximum elongation"."

I asked:
Is Venus crossing or just above/below the sun (say as of November 2, 2002)?

"Venus will be about 6 degrees south of the Sun (and thus appear "below" it from the Northern Hemisphere) at the beginning of November. It might be possible to point a small telescope at it, but you would have to be very careful not to pick up any direct sun rays, and you'd also need to know exactly where to point -- since Venus's bright side will be pointed away from us, it will be almost completely invisible."

I asked:
I'm most likely not being entirely correct about Hubble's magnification, so could you explain upon that issue as well (if the reference target were at 0.27AU). In other words, per AU, what can Hubble obtain?

" "Magnification" is really only defined when you have a telescope with an eyepiece, while Hubble (and most other research scopes) focus the image directly upon a CCD or other flat detector. It's more useful to talk about the resolution of a telescope -- the smallest angular feature it can see. Hubble's highest-resolution camera has a pixel sampling limit of 0.092 arcseconds, or 2.6 x 10^-6 degrees. At a distance of 0.27 AU = 41 million km, this angle equals 18 km, or about 1/700 the diameter of Venus."

"Please let me know if I can shed any more light (ha ha) on these matters!
-- Brad"

Not that it's of any communications detection requirement but, I still have some lingering magnification or resolution questions, as somewhere I seem to recall being informed that Hubble could, at closest junction of our moon, deliver with it's latest upgrade a raw resolution of 4 meters, which may be somewhat or considerably greater performance then of what Bradford was stating, but then, Bradford may simply have been referring to the previous optical/CCD resolution standards of Hubble and/or of the approved disclosure standards, not of the true present day situation (I certainly have no reason to dispute his 0.092 arcseconds/pixel, as that makes little if any difference as for merely detecting artificial illuminations however, we've certainly been officially lied to or lets call it misinformed before), either that or perhaps Hubble has lesser performance today then it did previously.

What's cheaper;  A front-end filter for Hubble or just an override of that 20 degree limit as for Hubble's CCD protection or, how about placing another instrument altogether, like that VL2 platform should cost a mere billion or so (100 million if such were accomplished by Russia), as a relatively simple optical communications relay platform stationed at Venus L2 is simply not rocket science, not even all that much of any CCD/telescope requirement (a $50 RadioShack CCD detector as glued to the back end of a 20X50 scope should do just fine), as for what TRACE utilizes would be more then adequate (capable of framing at up to 1/500th of a second), in fact we could just utilize TRACE as is (it's certainly not doing us all that much good right now, hiding behind Earth), first by simply duct taping a relatively small (5 watt at most) laser to the telescope barrel, as that laser having a fairly wide divergence (say 0.1 degree), then relocating TRACE to VL2. At least I'm suggesting nothing that's all that new nor unknown and, cost is nearly zip.

I'm understanding that the latest round of Hubble CCD's are those capable of such greater resolution and, there's even more to come;

HUBBLE (key FOV parameters)
WFC3 180/1000 nm 4096 pixel @160 arcsec 0.039/pixel (FOV = .0444 degrees)  ~  w/HST10X = 44.6 arcsec 0.011/pixel (10XFOV = .0124 degrees)
ACS    200/1000 nm 1024 pixel @25 arcsec 0.024/pixel (FOV = .00694 degrees)  ~  w/HST10X = 07.0 arcsec 0.007/pixel (10XFOV = .00194 degrees)

TRACE (key science parameters)
Wavelengths: 171Å FelX, 195Å FeXII,  284Å FeXV, 1216Å  HI, 1550Å CIV, 1600Å continuum
Spatial Resolution: 1 arcsecond; 0.5 arcsecond pixels
Temporal Resolution: <1 s; 5 s nominal
Exposure Time: 2 ms - 260 s
Field of View: 510 x 510 arcseconds (that's 0.14 degree FOV)

With such CCD improvements, then perhaps also the solar avoidance angle of instrument protection should also have become lesser (btw; I believe you and I should be asking about saturating a CCD as not damaging it, as long as it's temperature is within safe boundaries). I suppose for another few hundred million we could outfit a suitable front-end solar filter that would safely allow maximum sustained saturation capability of those CCD's and thereby allow an actual inclusion of the sun (even though having the sun within the FOV is simply not a requirement) and/or, of at least permitting solar glare intrusion without damaging those sensitive CCD's, by which this should safely pull Hubble to within 5 degrees (even that's a fairly broad 10 degree FOV, which Hubble can't possibly accommodate). Perhaps those sensitive CCD's are similar to those which previously couldn't safely look directly at the moon (we all should know that wasn't true). With Venus being 6+ degrees off the southern quadrants (I do believe that's viewed as if an object were directly 3.65+^6 km off the solar horizon). So, what's the objecting point of view, as the sunlight of solar glare intrusion is obviously nowhere sufficiently entering that instrument barrel, even if being potentially bright, not to any point of over saturating to a point of thermally damaging those CCD's (unless the inside of that barrel is something other then soot black)... For Pete's sake, life's a risk so, get over it and override those Hubble pointing limits and shoot Venus (Hubble most likely needs yet another round of upgrades anyway, like how about a large passive solar shade would be quite nice [how many millions could that shade possibly cost?]).

I mean, who the hell would ever design such a broad acceptance tube surrounding such a narrow resolution CCD (under 0.1 degree aperture, I suppose 1 full degree if one utilized the extremities of whatever other wide angle instruments) and, since there's no apparent atmosphere around Hubble, exactly where's that solar glare coming from? I also thought there was a protective shade or flap/lid and, that Hubble could be rotated so that said lid was essentially blocking the solar impact from even hitting the inner edge of that tube, at least that's a method for most of us having done so down here on Earth. So, why did the Hubble team fail to take such a fundamental telescope standard into account? and, I do believe even articulated shades (unlike optics) are dirt cheap, they certainly don't have to weigh much of anything, and in space, whatever size and weight are nearly meaningless.

Perhaps our efforts at exploring a neighboring planet that's as close as Venus, as further probing for whatever evolved life (obviously NOT as we might know it), life that's hopefully capable of xenon signaling Earth, that perhaps not even this grand opportunity is such a wise nor prudent application for Hubble or TRACE, let alone humanity (I mean; who actually needs anyone or anything from Venus?). One must realize that from the vantage point of Venus (most likely from above those nighttime clouds), that Earth and it's complex atmosphere is being viewed as nearly 3.5+% the diameter of our moon and, as such, from the perspective of most any good nocturnal lizard eye, there's likely sufficient raw visual resolution as to detect packets as illuminating from darker contrasting areas of Earth (no stinking telescope needed). However, with a Venus KECK-II class instrument (airborne at 50+km), those on Venus are seriously looking down our smoke stacks and, they certainly have no solar impact issues (just the opposit). Because Earth is in many ways quite loud, so perhaps they already know more facts and truths about us then even of what I've been suggesting is possible regarding their existence, after all, there's certainly no feeble excuses like a sun that 's 6+ degrees off target getting in their way of viewing Earth.

In other pages (lots other), I've more then explained about a fair number of positive considerations, those just as plausible and now more likely then not, responsible for what's been identified at "GUTH Venus". With little effort (nearly zero cost and absolutely no human risk), we should have been transmitting those packets and, likewise attempting as to receiving whatever since September 01, 2002 and continually doing such up until January 01, 2003 (perhaps that's related to why the Boeing/TRW laser cannon has been out of sight as well as out of the media). Much beyond that window of opportunity, we may be needing that Boeing/TRW laser cannon and, soon thereafter, we'll require that VL2 platform as for furthering our to/from visual signal relay and conversion as to some form of microwave patch to/from Earth. I've already mentioned about deploying a "Magellan-II" having a raw resolution of 1 meter, which is another doable thing with the existing technology and, perhaps even with the existing inventory, so, obviously little or no cost there.

In case you're entirely new at this grand and taxpayer funded "sport", there's plenty of room and credits to go around. Certainly room for better grammar and syntax. So, dawn your flak suit and dive right in, as I'll certainly share and otherwise credit your work as well as provide whatever links over into your research. I for one am looking forward to seeing your expertise hard at work (obviously NASA and all of their supporters could care less, just not enough less as to stopping themselves from moderating to death upon whatever you manage to accomplish).

Remember;  Life is not only a risk but it's short, so therefore, rules are meant to be broken and firmware/software are meant to be hacked to death if that's what it takes. Good luck and, let me know as soon as you discover/uncover something.

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