I suppose everyone has a list, mental or otherwise, of once-in-a-lifetimes: those events, situations, or experiences you get once and then never again, like your golden birthday or high school graduation. Yesterday, I added an item to my list: observing the transit of Venus.
Before, during and after writing about the transit last week for The Rivard Report, I did my research. I talked to experts, read about the history and science of it, and browsed through scores of images. For me, the pre-transit excitement reached admittedly unusual and potentially unrealistic levels. As I watched the clock tick towards 5:05 pm yesterday, I felt the same anxious, itchy, excitement that I last experienced on Christmas morning as a seven-year-old, waiting for 6:00 am to finally roll around so I could pounce on my parents to rouse them.
A little after 5:00 pm yesterday, I ventured outside, solar glasses in hand, and gazed up at the sun. When I spotted the little black dot of Venus on the very edge of the solar disk, the knowledge that I was seeing something then that I wouldn’t ever have the chance to view again left me giddy. I’d certainly found better pictures online than what I was seeing with my own eyes; closer, clearer, sharper. But nothing before that moment could compare to the experience of standing on South Hackberry wearing strange, reflective glasses and observing it myself. Throughout the next hour, I snuck out of the office, various coworkers in tow, to steal glances at scarcely visible Venus. Some laughed in delight, others laughed at my enthusiasm, and a few seemed to appreciate the magnitude of what they were witnessing.
After my Hackberry viewing, I made my way to the Marrs McLean Observatory at Trinity University, where the Department of Physics and Astronomy held a small, informal gathering for the Trinity community. With the help of impressive telescopes, finely crafted solar projectors, and professional astronomers, spectators had the opportunity to see some breathtaking images of Venus in front of the Sun.
Several things aside from the beauty of the transit struck me while at Trinity. First, the number of children present yesterday on the roof of Marrs McLean nearly equaled the number of adults. I decided then that a transit of Venus is exactly the kind of weird but important thing I hope I’ll bring my own kids to someday. A few other mid-twenties peers in attendance and I discussed this and agreed. (Quickly, however, we realized that taking our future children to the next transit of Venus in year 2117 probably isn’t within the realm of possibility. A total solar eclipse it is!)
Second, and I’ll leave you with this: the reactions elicited by the sight of tiny Venus from children and adults were remarkably and adorably similar. No matter your age and no matter how long your list of once-in-a-lifetimes, you can’t help but feel unreasonably victorious when you see a distant planet slide across the surface of your star. And that is something to celebrate.
For more photos and reflections of the Transit of Venus, visit the Transit of Venus Twitter feed.
Miriam Sitz works for Accion Texas Inc., the nation’s largest non-profit microlender. A graduate of Trinity University, she blogs on Miriam210.com and sells handmade goods on TinderboxGoods.com. Follow her on Twitter at @miriamsitz. [Click here for more stories from Miriam Sitz on the Rivard Report.]