Transit of Venus Rained Out in McCauley
“Transit of Venus.” Is that a misspelling? Does it mean to say “Transit of Venice”? Does it allude to moonlit evenings on canals, gondoliers standing at the stern of elegant boats, stringed quartets on shore playing romantic melodies, couples on board snuggling? (I live a block from Little Italy.)
No. It refers to the planet Venus passing across the sun. An astronomy professor at the U of A calls it “One of the greatest shows on earth.” It only happens twice, eight years apart, every 130 years or so. It’s been seen just eight times in human history and was one reason for Captain Cook’s 1768 expedition to Tahiti. Scientists used information from that to measure the distance from the earth to the sun and to calculate the size of the universe.
So when BMC News volunteers gathered at Tony’s Pizza on June 5, I brought four pairs of special glasses so we could watch the transit. I hoped for a break in the clouds. We got rain.
The next day I saw pictures from elsewhere: Venus was a black dot the size of a grain of barley on a large dinner plate. On the next sunny day I got out my solar glasses and looked at the sun.
The sun is a disc a fourth the size of the moon. Specks of dust on the glasses would have been larger than Venus.
I’ve circled the date of the next transit on my calendar. It’ll fall on my birthday, December 11, 2117. I’ll be 169. I’m going to ask for a telescope.