Thursday, June 7, 2012

The transit of Venus (Looking with my hands)

Many people around the world viewed a rare occurrence in the heavens two days ago June 5th 2012.

Little did we know when we built our dry stone 'Venus Gate' ( a 'tri-structure' of plinth, oval-gate-arch opening and stone telescope) at our most recent Dry Stone Wall Festival in Canada that such a special occasion involving Venus would take place less than a year later.

Transit of Venus 2012: Spectacular show seen for the last time until ...

While there are a lot of facts and figures related to this special event there are a couple of things specifically that interested me.

First off how did it get its name?

Venus is one of the 5 planets visible with the unaided eye. This means that ancient people knew of Venus, and tracked its movements in the sky. Venus is the second planet away from the Sun and is the brightest object in the sky aside from the Moon and the Sun and it appears 10x brighter than the brightest star in the sky, Sirius. The clouds of Venus reflect the light of the sun like a giant mirror.

The Romans knew of seven bright objects in the sky, the sun, the moon and the five brightest planets. They named them after their most important gods. Venus, the brightest planet in the night sky, was named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty.

In ancient times, Venus was known to the Babylonians as Ishtar, the goddess of womanhood and love, so the planet has a long standing tradition of being associated with amore. 
The ancient Egyptians and Greeks thought Venus was two separate bodies and named them The Morning Star and the Evening Star until in Hellenistic times, people figured out that it was only one object. Hence perhaps the connection to the oval shape. Surprisingly the actual orbit of Venus is the most circular in the entire Solar System. In mathematical terms, the eccentricity of Venus is less than 0.01. 

And as we look at the many images of Venus in transit on the Internet as seen through various telescopes and using other observation methods ( including the one we set up at the Hart House Farm site where our Venus Gate stands) some interesting Venus-like associations come to mind. 

A pair of thumbnail pics of Venus Transit found on Google image search

Here is a remarkable photo of Venus transit as it makes what scientists call the 'second contact' – the point where its entire silhouette is first seen yet still touching the inside edge of the suns circumference. 

                                                         This photo when scaled and narrowed in perspective actually makes the familiar oval  Venus shape and looks even more like our Venus gate.


1 comment:

  1. Very cool Venus photos (it was, of course, cloudy here in Seattle so I didn't even get to pretend to see it) and very very cool Venus gate. Is that completely dry-lay?