Later today people around the world will get a view of a transit of Venus. Such rare astronomical events take place when the planet's orbit carries it directly between the sun and the Earth, allowing viewers to see it (as long as they use proper viewing equipment for safety!) as it appears to cross in front of the sun.
The transit won't occur until relatively late in the day — it begins around 3 p.m. in Los Angeles — but astronomers already have their telescopes trained on Venus as the transit approaches.
The image of Venus above, for example, was taken Monday by Kevin Reardon, a researcher at the Arcetri Observatory in Florence, Italy, who is monitoring the transit from the Dunn Solar Telescope at the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, N.M.
The photo, assembled from a number of high-resolution images, shows Venus as it nears its transit, at just two degrees from the sun — "about four full-moons away, which is pretty close (there is a lot of glare)," Reardon wrote in an email.