June 8, 2004

Sic Transit Gloria Venus

My kids got up at the crack of cloud cover this morning, but they roused me from my bed soon after when the haze lifted a bit. There was some sort of big scientific thing they were all excited and yammering about. Transit of some planet or other. Apparently, these so-called “planets” can get very uppity and rude, passing in front of the Sun and all. As if the sky isn’t big enough that they couldn’t find their own space.

Anyhow, this transit whatzimajig is like an eclipse, only pathetic. Venus is so small compared to the Sun, and so far away that it barely looks like a sunspot from this distance. At least, thats what my daughters tell me.

They’d constructed elaborate wood-and-metal pinhole devices while I lazily took the adult route and whipped out a monocular that was handed down from my in-laws. That’s right, I didn’t even bother to pay for the thing myself. If my brain had been working (it was early) I would have thought to use the telescope.

But wait—I was warned in time not to look at the Sun directly with the unaided eye and especially not with the eye-aided-by-binoculars. It’s some sort of gesture of respect that astronomers have for the Sun, apparently. You’re only supposed to look at the Sun indirectly, that is, at an image of the Sun projected on something.

When in Rome, they say… so we did.

And here we have the results. You must have some pretty serious respect for the Sun, my friend. Because not only are you not looking directly at the Sun, you’re not looking directly at an image of the Sun. You’ve got an image of an image of the Sun. Here you see that big glowing orb which both makes the flowers grow and can burn your eyes out if you look directly at it.

And within the circle of the solar disk on the right side you see a tiny speck—the shadow of the planet Venus. At the time the picture was taken (about 6:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time…10:30 AM for you folks living in GMT) Venus was getting ready to leave the building, as its shadow is moving off to the right.

Those of you really amateur astronomers who actually got up to see Venus, well you’re out of luck. A shadow is all you were getting today.

Posted by James at June 8, 2004 10:25 AM
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I was annoyed with myself for forgetting about this. Now I don't feel so bad. :)

Posted by: Julie at June 8, 2004 12:32 PM

My disparaging remarks ar tongue-in-cheek. It is pretty cool to be the first people to see such an event in such a long time. Previously, no one alive had seen a transit.

But with all the gushing available at other sites, I need to be a little goofy and contrarian.

Posted by: James at June 8, 2004 1:00 PM

Nice photos, James. Some days I'm lucky if I get out and see the sun at all so I applaud your family's dedication.

What font did you use for those labels?

Posted by: Mike at June 8, 2004 1:10 PM

I liked that font, too. It's "Jenkins v2.0"

I guess it came wiht this old version of Photoshop.

Posted by: James at June 8, 2004 9:46 PM

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