Thanks to Jay Ryan’s Celestial Almanack, we have known that the Transit of Venus was coming. His May edition of the Celestial Almanack explained the phenomenon really well, and he consistently urged everyone to get off the couch, go outside and look!
GraceNotes has also been working her way through Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy, and by studying and observing, our whole family more deeply appreciates God’s gift of the night sky and all that it tells us; and we have gained a much clearer understanding of how the earth moves through the heavens.
That said, the Transit of Venus is a daytime event, but the morning of June 5th dawned gray and dreary, then rainy and quite cool. Ralph was prepared with a method to safely view the Transit without special equipment, but wondered if the sun would actually be visible.
Throughout the day we checked our favorite solar activity website, Spaceweather.com for Transit news and to look at the photos taken by the “black belt master astro telescopic photographers.” Bookmark this site. There are always great photos, and a daily report of sun spot, solar wind and coronal mass ejection activity! The weather is always a bit wild on the sun! Here is a link to their real time image gallery for the Transit of Venus.
Number One Son went off to Ultimate Frisbee practice thinking it would be rained out. But suddenly around 5:30 PM or so, the sun emerged strong and bright! Perfect timing! According to authorities, late afternoon before sunset was our best chance of viewing the Transit of Venus.
Ralph grabbed his barrel binoculars and a white sheet of paper and headed outside. He had read that by using the binoculars as a sort of projector and focusing the view towards the white paper, we could watch the Transit of Venus, on the piece of paper, upside-down, from our front porch!
Anytime we observe Nature we find that we see more, more clearly and with greater understanding when we take our time. When we first looked, it wasn’t much. We could see a tiny black dot at the edge of the bottom right corner of the small disk of the sun. At first I thought that the image needed focus, then I realized that I was watching clouds move across the sun blocking the light. After a bit, it was difficult to keep the paper and the binoculars still. We decided to check back every 10 minutes or so. When we checked the second time, we could see the dot much more clearly, and that it had moved! Successive checks made it quite clear that Venus was moving across the face of the sun, and we were actually “seeing it!”
Our piece of 8.5 x 11 white paper, with black dot and bright white disc had significance beyond its simplicity.
We tried to impress upon GraceNotes that this only happens 13 times in a millennium, and no one living now will be around to see it the next time.
It brought to mind the tremendous dedication of the great astronomers of the past, who created their own instruments, spent their lives observing the slight but steady movements of stars, and puzzled through the confusing paths of planets. That level of personal diligence and commitment, and its sole reward of “understanding” is one that is so lightly regarded now. After all, there were no government grants for the scientists of old.
A NASA scientist mentioned that the Transit of Venus shows the clockwork regularity of the movement of our solar system and galaxy. It does. And the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day, they pour forth speech, and night after night they display knowledge. (Psalm 19: 1-2) The workings of our solar system and galaxy are a tremendous testimony to God’s precision, and artistry in His design.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
Did you miss the Transit of Venus? It’s not too late!
Check out the photos at NASA’s official website, Transit of Venus.