I can’t stop looking up! But remember to shield your eyes.

English: Transit of Venus - Venus completely o...
English: Transit of Venus – Venus completely over the sun  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sky is its own kind of clock…and map! Almost every night I go outside at dusk and again later in the evening to at least check out the moon! I like to see where it sits in the sky and watch it move around a bit both seasonally and in its different phases, and armed with a little information I am equally impressed with the visible planets. For a sky-watcher like me, this has been quite a special four weeks. We had the Supermoon in early May, the Annular Solar Eclipse in late May and now in the first week of June we have the extremely rare Transit of Venus.

I am far from educated in the field of Astronomy. I don’t actually know that much about what I observe, but I can appreciate! I do make careful attempts to gain some qualified knowledge, and one of my favorite sources is the website earthsky.org. Between that and a NASA app I at least know when it’s time to begin doing a little research.

So when I first began to hear of the Transit’s rare occurrence on the 5th and 6th of June, I had to do some reading.   I got a little stuck on the first article I read.  A typo suggested I wouldn’t be alive in 2,017. I must have been particularly fatigued because I read it over and over again trying to understand why the author thought I (we) only had five more years to live. But reading further, no, this celestial event will next take place in 2117. I don’t have anything on my calendar 105 years from now, do you?

What is a transit? I’ll repeat the part that I can actually understand. At its most basic element, a transit of Venus  takes place when the planet passes directly between the Sun and Earth. It is actually visible against the sun, appearing as a black dot. Sadly, once again I have been asleep at the switch and didn’t purchase my #14 welder’s glasses, recommended eyewear if you intend to witness this phenomenon. I am delighted to note; however that a simple google search revealed web-events promising opportunities to follow along. This live link should give you a little head start on the google searching! Rare Transit of Venus: How to Watch Online | Venus Transit 2012 Webcasts | Space.com.

In some ways the occurrence is compared to a solar eclipse by the Moon, but Transits of Venus are much more rare. They occur with pairs of transits eight years apart, separated by 121 and 105 years. The last transit took place on June 8, 2004, and the previous pair of transits were in December 1874 and December 1882.

I’ve included a wonderfully informative NASA video that can reinforce how rare and special this is, but also gives a very quick history of how these previous transits have been used to determine the distance from the Earth to the Sun which also contributed to knowledge about the size of the Solar System.

This is a BIG deal!

The first known observation of a transit of Venus was in 1639. Jeremiah Horrocks observed one from his home near Preston in England. From his estimations of the exact time the transit was to begin and focusing the image of the Sun through a simple telescope onto a piece of paper, Horrocks’ observations allowed him to make a well-informed guess as to the size of Venus and an estimate of the distance between the earth and the Sun. He estimated the distance as 59.4 million miles, or two thirds of the actual distance of 93 million miles. This was a more accurate figure than any previously suggested up to that time. 1639! And I need a child’s tutorial to even scratch the surface of understanding!

So what will this final transit show today’s astronomers? I’ll tell you what? Just google Transit of Venus 2012 and take a look at the list of scientific organizations all poised and ready. Anticipation is running high! I’d say they are salivating! After all, the next pair of transits, December 2117 and December 2125, will only be partially visible in the western United States, Europe and Africa–China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and Australia will do much better! Living in Los Angeles, I’m bound to miss out!

Enjoy a little break from all the other chaos in the news and look up at the sky…I guarantee it’s a good pause to help you breathe lighter.


33 thoughts on “I can’t stop looking up! But remember to shield your eyes.

    1. I hope you were able to at least see something of the event on-line. I was at work all day, but I managed to keep up with the planets move courtesy of the web. That was cool, too! Debra

  1. I don’t know much about astronomy but I sure enjoy events like this. I wonder what we’ll be able to see from Australia, especially as where I am is blanketed in cloud and rain xx

    1. I don’t know much either, Charlie, but I try to just observe and be content with that! We had a bright sun, but there wasn’t any way to actually observe the planet’s movement 🙂 I watched for quite a while on-line and had to be content with that! I hope you had a moment just to think about it. We can at least say we were able to experience it, even if from an amazingly long distance, right? Debra

    1. My goodness that much rain? I tend to keep track as much as I can of weather as far north as Boston where one of my closest friends lives. She was originally from California so we tease back and forth about the weather! I do hope the sunshine comes out soon, Karen. I’m thinking of your garden. Now we could use a little of your rain! LOL! Debra

    1. I am in awe of the same thing, Carl. Even before there was even crude instrumentation they were asking questions that didn’t connect to any real ability to observe. I just cannot fathom that. I was at work today and couldn’t possibly observe anything even if I’d been home, but I did spend some time on one of the websites and I found that fascinating, as well. Debra

  2. Thanks so much for the information, Debra. I don’t know if we dare to look at the sun without our eye protection, but maybe we can watch the “live performance” online somewhere. Our family has always been fascinated with the journeys of the planets and stars — unfortunately where we currently reside (two blocks from Chicago), we have much light pollution. Where my brother lives in northern Minnesota, the night sky is velvety black and the stars are like diamonds, almost within reach. Blessings!

    1. Thank you for including a link, John. I actually referred back to it this afternoon while I was still at work. I had trouble getting on, and later heard that the nasa links crashed because of so much use. I actually thought that was a little funny. Public interest crashed NASA. But I found a link somewhere else after trying for quite a while and did get to watch for quite a while. It was really almost enough just to know that it was occurring. I’m glad I could share the opportunity with you! Debra

  3. Thanks for all the links, Andra, and since I’m on the edge of Chicago, thanks ChgoJohn, for yours. It has been an exciting time for watching the skies, hasn’t it, Debra. I’ve been watching the skies in my own limited way ever since watching the orbiting Sputnik heightened my awareness for the stars and the sun and the moon – and, yes, I’m THAT old. Off i go to visit a few of your links, watch the Queen wave from the balcony, and maybe get some work done.

    1. So funny, Penny! It gets to be quite the trick to multitask through all the blog reading, isn’t it? I think we do really well overall! I’m not at all surprised that you’re a “sky-watcher.” Are you far enough from the city lights to get a really good show? Our particular street and neighborhood is relatively “dark” at night, but I am sure we are picking up an awful lot of light from the city itself. I love it when we are really out in the desert or somewhere we can really see a sky!! And I just now watched the Queen on the balcony! I had to tape it because of work. Wasn’t she just charming? I loved her smiles and she just looked like she was loving this! Don’t you feel fortunate that we could witness this moment in history? I’m glad we can share some of this interest together, Penny. I don’t have too many friends who care! LOL! Debra

      1. That’s it, Debra! We are the magnificent multi-taskers. Now, if I could just find my reading glasses.

        We are too close to the city of Chicago, and, in fact, our own area has its own lights distracting from the sky. We actually need to walk down the road or get into the car for most heavenly observances as we have so many trees here that block clear views. I did catch a bit of this online an local news, kicking myself for not trying to get to the Adler Planetarium on the lakefront or even the Cernan Space Center at Triton College, both about 20 minutes away.

        She was charming, Debra, and I admire her stamina. I would have looked as wilted as an old spinach salad, but there she was, still chipper and on her own two feet. Our daughter Jennifer has a British friend, Lola, who spent a Christmas with us. She appreciated my tea making abilities – no microwaved tea here – and gave me a box of English tea as a thank you. I save it for royal weddings and Downton Abbey and Diamond Jubilees. We are fortunate, indeed, and you always have a kindred spirit here.

    1. I was able to watch from work this afternoon, and really enjoyed it, Andra. I hope you had at least a few moments to do the same! And I thought it was interesting that it coincided with the Queen’s big day, too! 🙂 Debra

    1. I had full sun today, Claire, but I had to watch it on the internet! I was at work, but even if I had been home, I couldn’t have seen it 🙂 I was just as happy to know that we were having a little “sky show” going on that is as rare as they come! I’m sitting here now, Claire, watching the “Queen’s Concert” that is only now televised for us. I’ve been enjoying the festivities, but this one makes me laugh. I like the music, but somehow I don’t think the artists were selected with the Queen in mind. I’d love to know what she is thinking!! Ha! Debra

  4. I find these things fascinating too and, like you, I may not understand them, but I sure do appreciate them. When I was single I dated a real “outdoorsy” type guy, and on clear summer nights we would go to mountain-top observatories and join groups of people with super-strong telescopes who enjoyed sharing their knowledge and scopes with us. It was so cool to actually view the rings of Saturn as well as deep detail of the moon’s craters and so many other things, some of which I’d only seen in books and others that I’d never seen at all. Good times. 🙂

    I heard a fascinating radio program yesterday about the history of the Venus Transit and how it was viewed, interpreted, and predicted by people centuries ago. I love that sort of stuff. 🙂

  5. Dear Debra, thanks for the explanation and the links. The only time I’d ever heard about the “transit of Venus” was when I visited with an astrologer this spring. As she read my chart, she mentioned the transit several times and how it would influence my life. I need to go back and listen to the CD.

    I never know how much I believe about what I”m told by an astrologer. What I do know is that when a new possibility comes to me–from that deep center of myself where hope dwells or from another person or event–my own natural desire to create goodness out of possibility takes hold and often something magical happens. Maybe this time too! Peace.

    1. It seems to me that you are just so open, Dee…to new ideas, new information and new experiences. I’m sure that the astrology leaves you with questions, but I find it very easy to see you creating magic! Just look what you’ve been up to this spring! 🙂 Debra

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