As millions of skywatchers around the world trained their heads upward yesterday to gaze upon the last Transit of Venus to occur in their lifetime (unless they plan to live another 105 years, in which case good luck with that), NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory was also monitoring the "rarest predictable solar event" — and getting a better view of the space show than practically anyone else.

The SDO was launched in February of 2010 with the goal of getting a good look at the sun's atmosphere and magnetic field, as well as "provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth's atmospheric chemistry and climate."

The images it captures carry a resolution eight times better than HD TV. As for the footage of Venus marching across the sun:


The videos and images displayed here are constructed from several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light and a portion of the visible spectrum. The red colored sun is the 304 angstrom ultraviolet, the golden colored sun is 171 angstrom, the magenta sun is 1700 angstrom, and the orange sun is filtered visible light. 304 and 171 show the atmosphere of the sun, which does not appear in the visible part of the spectrum.

If you're still all "pfft," consider this: Since the telescope was invented 400 years ago there have been only seven Venus transits. How's that for an eye-opener?

[video via NASA Goddard]