There is an astronomical event next week that you should really try to see. It happens in 8-year offset pairs and then a gap of over a century – it’s the transit of Venus. A transit of a planet is when it passes in between the Sun and the Earth. Due to the orbital geometries, Venus does two transits eight years apart and then the next pair happen over a century later. The last pair took place in 1874 and 1882 and the first part of the current pair took place back in 2004 with the next transit to take place next week. After that, you’ll have to wait until 2117 and 2125 – a pair that GorT has already seen, it was awesome, but a pair that the rest of you might not be around to witness.
GorT will likely watch this event with his replicants – in fact, the science teacher at the parochial school that the youngest two replicants attend might make it a bonus assignment as she is a big astronomy fan. For us in North America, the transit is partially visible and we can observe it as the Sun is setting. For all the details, including how to watch it safely (DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN) I refer you to the excellent blog, Bad Astronomy. Read up – there are plenty of resources and links. It is a rare event that shouldn’t be missed. If anything, it should provide some perspective. Consider that the Sun is 115 times wider than Venus but since Venus is about 100 million km closer to Earth, Venus will appear to be about 1/30th of the Sun.
For those of us in the Washington, DC area, the transit begins at 22:03:48 UTC which is 10:03:48pm. But wait, that’s after sunset, right? No. UTC (Universal Coordinated Time) is 4 hours offset from Eastern Daylight Time, so it will start at 6:03:48pm EDT and end at 6:21:27pm. The Sun should be about 25 degrees above the horizon. Other cities times are available here.