Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Venus in transit, like my mileage reimbursement check from 3 months ago

Lately I've been feeling a little ehhh about blogging, mainly because I am not finding myself nearly as entertaining as I used to.

I thought an intellectual pursuit might jump-start the brain juices, so I convinced some neighbors to pick me up from work yesterday and boogie up to Kenner to watch the planet Venus pass between Earth and the sun.

Much like a total eclipse of the heart, this event is special, rare, and enhanced greatly by the presence of men with telescopic insight into the soul (of the universe).

Photo by CJ Butler
We befriended Ron Keating of the Pontchartrain Astronomy Society, who explained the significance of the planetary motion, as well as the hazards of looking directly into the sun, and the Society's surprisingly passionate position on Pluto's downgrade to "dwarf planet" status:

"It's just not fair!" he exclaimed. "They said Pluto's a planet and they need to stick with that. They said it doesn't clean out its orbit like the other planets, but big deal."

"Like a teenage planet?" I asked.

"Something like that," Ron affirmed.

Chatting with Ron's friend George, we learned that welder's goggles offer a gauge of sunlight filtration that, while not recommended for extensive solar viewing, will do in a pinch.

"I can still see," reported George as he gazed steadfastly at the sun through his futuristic eyewear. "For now."

Though the sun was covered by clouds for most of the time we were out there, it eventually did make an appearance with a Venus-shaped freckle on the side of its face.

Different telescopes - which the astronomers graciously lent use of to the adoring public (me, my two neighbors, and a handful of other people, including the aptly named "Joe Rocket") - offered a variety of perspectives.  The photo above was taken through the viewing lens of one of these magical machines, one of which allowed the observer to see bright red solar flares around the edge of the sun.

Don't worry if you missed out - you can catch Venus in transit next time on December 10, 2117.

2 comments:

  1. Ha! Yes! The office was buzzing about this yesterday. A room full of engineers, all talking about astrophysics in a semi-informed manner. It was SO good.

    How good are the sciences? How good are the people that are involved in the sciences? Looks like you have found out the answer through your visit with the PAS.

    Perhaps Ron has overlooked some things in assessing Pluto's fate as a dwarf planet. Take into account that Pluto gets to hang out with other dwarf planets like Eris, Sedna and Orcus, and maybe it’s not so bad after all. They all get to cut up as if they were at the children’s table of a family dinner. That children’s table is the Kuiper Belt which contains all sorts of interesting things including more dwarf planets. Pluto is also smaller than our moon, so it kind of makes sense that it shouldn’t be recognized as a planet. Sorry Pluto :( if it’s any consolation, at least your gravity is enough to make you spherical.

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  2. This came up at that freethinkers party I texted you about. Next time I go you should think about coming...might make good blog material. Also, nice one on the teenager joke.

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