Venus transit

The transit begins and the weather is clear!

After a gloomy start to the day and an equally gloomy weather forecast, I had all but given up hope of seeing the transit of Venus. Oh well, I told myself, at least I got to see a bit of the 2004 event. And then, miracle of miracles, at midday the Sun broke through the clouds and by first contact, the sky was clear. Venus bit into the solar limb exactly on time, and all was right with the universe.

Transit start

Venus takes a nibble out of the Sun.

A Venus transit is a pretty leisurely affair. I can’t think of too many ephemeral astronomical events that take so long that you have time to put together a pretty elaborate snack (including a trip to the supermarket for the chips you forgot to buy) and not really miss anything In fact, I’d even go so far as to say this is definitely one event whose rarity isn’t matched by its visual splendour. I know that will sound like heresy to some, but really, if you can honestly say you watched the whole thing start to finish, you should consider joining some kind of monastic order. That’s patience!

Don’t get me wrong, the transit was a titanic event and I’m really glad I got to see it. But after you’ve watched first and second contacts, taken a bunch of photos, mumbled a few words about the laboured sufferings of 18th-centurey astronomers like Le Gentil, you’re left with, well, a nice black dot on the face of the Sun. Great, but c’mon Venus — six hours!?! That’s twice as long as it took the Titanic to sink and nearly as long as the James Cameron movie about it. Next time, move it along a little, eh Venus? You’ve got 105 years to figure something out.

More transit

Until 2117. . .