You might have heard about people gearing up for this one already.
The transit of Venus is the term used for when the planet Venus passes between the earth and the sun so that we see a small black dot crossing the sun. It’s similar to a solar eclipse, which is when the moon gets between us and the sun. But the moon is very close to us, so from certain vantage points on earth appears to block out the sun entirely. Venus is much larger than our moon, but is also very far away, so appears as a small dot.
(Does anyone else feel like our moon deserves a name? All the other planet’s moons have names, and they aren’t even important to our survival. It doesn’t seem fair!)
The transit of Venus is very rare. It occurs in large, regularly irregular intervals: 121.5 years, 8 years, 105.5 years. The last transit was in June of 2004, so this June is the last chance for anyone living now to get a shot at seeing one! It will be on June 5th, around 6pm on the Eastern coast of the US. The transit of Venus site has some help for finding local times, as does NASA.
The trick is how to see it safely. (I’m still working on that bit.)
DO NOT look directly at the sun. This is a BAD IDEA and cause permanent damage to your eyes. (This is one of those things your parents were right about…)
The safest way is to project the image from a telescope or binoculars onto a screen, or use a pinhole projector and a white piece of paper. Apparently you can also buy glasses with special filters to look directly, and I’ve read that some welder’s glasses will work. #14 or more. I need to investigate this further, it’d be awesome if I could use the welder’s glasses I slightly steampunked to watch the transit.
For something a little quieter than Sousa, try Gustav Holst’s Venus, Bringer of Peace. Apparently the pieces were written based on the supposed astrological effect of the planets rather than their mythological basis.
Mythology buffs know that Venus was no sort of peace bringer. As goddess of love, lust and beauty she caused at least as much trouble as any of the war oriented gods! Again, it seems unfair. Earth got left out because the planet’s were all tied to their astrological symbolisms and Earth was lacking. Isn’t being our home enough?!
I would love to see (hear) someone do a similar series of suites, but with our knowledge of the planets and their physical properties rather than astrology as the influence.
Did anyone catch the 2004 transit? Anyone have suggestions about their preferred method of viewing?