Monday, June 18, 2012

Planning for the Transit

I can't remember when I first read about the Transit of Venus, but it was before the 2004 transit. Must have been years ago — how many events combine exploration of the Earth with exploration of the Heavens? Capt. Cook goes to Tahiti, figures out how far the Earth is from the Sun. To simplify the story a lot.

Anyway, the '04 transit was early in the morning, and I couldn't be bothered with it. Eight years ago I wrote, "according to today’s paper, about 1000 people showed up at the Adler Planetarium yesterday morning to see the Transit of Venus. I figure that represents the hard-core astro-buffs. Lazy duffers like myself, who knew about the event, but didn’t go, probably represented 100 times as many people in the metro area. If that assumption is true -- and it’s only speculation -- that would mean 100,000 people out of 9.1 million or so in the metro area understood what was going on, celestially speaking. Nice to be part of a knowledgeable elite, especially if you don’t have to get out of bed early to be part of it."

This time I knew the event would be in the afternoon. Months ago I wrote a note about it on the hanging calendar we refer to most often, and on another calendar hanging in my office: TRANSIT OF VENUS. No one asked what it was until the page was flipped to June. As it happened, June 5 was the day after the girls finished school: Ann's last day of 3rd grade was the 4th, and Lilly's "graduation" from 8th grade was held on the evening of the 4th as well.

If it's sunny on June 5, I told them, we're going downtown to the Adler, which is bound to have telescopes set up for viewing. At once Lilly wanted to invite some friends and spend time at the nearby beach as well. I agreed with that, as long as we made our way to the planetarium by about 5.

So early in the month, I paid special attention to the weather forecast. As I've mentioned, the last day of May was rainy all day. If the transit had been that day, we wouldn't have seen a moment of it. But by June 3, all predictions were for a clear day on the 5th. SUNNY, the forecast said on the 4th for the next day. So I knew we were going to see it. More about that tomorrow.



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