in transit

It is fair to say this is the astronomical event of the century, as the next time Venus transits the Sun will be in the 22nd century. Only six transits of Venus have ever been observed in recorded history.  (source: SkyNews May/June 2012)

Photo: Lorna Harvey

Last week, thanks to my clever and resourceful husband, I was able to witness, with my own eyes, said astronomical event from our balcony. He picked up two copies of SkyNews magazine that included a pair of special cardboard glasses that allows a person to look directly at the sun.

Just after 6:00 p.m. ET, on June 5th, while staring at the sun, we saw a notch of black appear in the upper right section of it. Over the next two hours we watched Venus transit, the whole time remarking how amazing it was. How incredible. How lucky we were to be able to have this experience. How...wow.

As the transit continued the notch became a half circle, then a whole perfect circle of our neighbouring planet, as you can see pictured above.

To say it was backlit is an understatement.

We shared our glasses with our neighbours from the first floor who came up to have a look. We called our friend Jill who lives on the sixth floor of the building and took our glasses up there, gaining a few more viewing minutes. Her friend Julie who lives around the corner also dropped by for a view.

Then it clouded over and we went home.

I used to find astronomical information overwhelming. I felt small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Black holes, stars, galaxies, particles, the universe and our part in it. But after listening to a few talks from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, whom I discovered from my curious husband who does a lot of research, I feel much better about where we fit into the grand scheme of things.

It was Neil's explanation on how we are made up of the same particles as the universe that eased my mind.

We are the universe, and it is us. Like it or not, we are all connected to it, and each other.

And the whole lot of us are...in transit.

Like Venus, we are passing from one place to another. Young to old, ignorant to aware, dark to light, confusion to clarity, life to death. We transition in different ways at different speeds, not always knowing where we are headed or what lays ahead. 

But creative folk who make things like the Scale of the Universe provide perspective on exactly where we are, and how we fit in.

Among those creative types is my friend Lorna.

You can see what she saw on June 5th from her home in the Cayman Islands, pictured above.

How?

She used a 80-400mm lens at 400, then set the camera to iso LO.3, f42, shutterspeed 4000/sec. And a Nikon D300, manually focused. Also the image was shot on high-res and then cropped as there is no way a 400mm lens would ever get THAT close.

Lorna witnessed the transit with her baby, Kai who is nine months old.  Depending on the advancements of life-prolonging medical breakthroughs, he may be around to see the next transit of Venus, which is only 105.5 years away.

Maybe I'll send my cardboard glasses her way just in case.