Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Venus transit

Today, the tiny black dot of Venus crossed over the sun. The last time this happened was in 1882, so not exactly your everyday event.

By observing a transit of Venus, the astronomer Edmund Halley was able to devise the formula in 1716 for calculating the distance from the earth to the sun. The Venus transit was also the impetus for Captain Cook's travels in the H.M.S. Endevour, to Tahiti in 1769. I have to say, Tahiti was probably an infinitely preferable location for viewing, compared to my bedroom window looking over the scrapyard, but at least I can also see the sea.

I nearly missed it. Scotland has been wreathed in fog all day. I woke briefly, when E. left for work this morning at 5.30 a.m. The alarm went off again at 6.30. Staggering out of bed, I realised my parents were already up. My dad stood ready with the binoculars and his welders glass, bought specially the week before in preparation for the event. But- too cloudy, they told me, to hope to see it. So I went back to bed. I woke up again at quarter past nine, at which point they blithely announced there was a break in the clouds at about 7 am.

So I missed it? Oh yes, they said. We thought you probably needed the sleep.

What? What? Hello- I can sleep when I am dead. I just missed the effing Venus transit which happens like, once every 234 years, because you thought I should sleep? OK, so admittedly, it will happen again in 2012, but I could be busy that day, or traveling, or otherwise engaged. Mind boggles at display of parental logic.

Happily, there was another cloud break around 10.30 am. I stood braced against the window, welders glass clamped to the edge of the binoculars. Through the murk, I could see the sun, green through the glass, the small black dot of Venus skimming the bottom. And then two minutes later, the clouds rolled over once more and the fog remained the rest of the day.

Perhaps not a life changing event for me, but I was glad to have witnessed it. And I promised myself that when I become a mother, I will wake my child for astronomical phenomenons, the likes of which we are not to see again in this lifetime.


At 11:50 AM, Blogger JJ said...

Yes, I was very upset with my mother for not waking up my (very) little brothers for the whole Y2K thing. I would have woken my kids up.

My grandpa used to wake me up when they launched a space shuttle, and we'd watch it together.

These things are memories!!!


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