NASA provides rare images of transit of Venus

Sky watchers gathered across the country Tuesday to witness the planet Venus floating across the face of the sun—but chances are they didn't see it like this.

The best seats in the house belonged to NASA, which captured images from its own high-tech spacecraft. The Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the sun, and it provides images with a resolution eight times better than high-definition television, according to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

[Related: More photos of transit of Venus]

The video shows the 6-hour, 40-minute event in about 3 minutes. It's almost something out of a sci-fi movie: Tiny Venus passes by a massive, fiery, glowing orb. The images were constructed from several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light and a portion of the visible spectrum, making the sun appear in different colors: red, gold, magenta and orange.

The event isn't expected to happen again in our lifetime. The last transit was in 2004 and the next won't happen until 2117.

[Related slideshow: Solar eclipse photos from space]

Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, the SDO is on a five-year mission to examine the sun's atmosphere and magnetic field and to provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth's atmospheric chemistry and climate.