Not quite travel related, but perhaps more than some stuff I write about. It would be smart to start making plans if you intend to see this once- (maybe twice-) in-a-lifetime event on June 5-6. The transit of Venus is very similar to a solar eclipse, but instead of the moon passing between the Sun and Earth, it’s the planet Venus. Venus may be bigger, but it’s also a lot farther away, so it will look more like a dot rather than block out the sun completely.
This event occurs only twice about every 100-120 years. The two transits are separated by eight years, and then the gap until the next pair is either 105.5 or 121.5 years, meaning this is a phenomenon you will not see again until 2117. Even Halley’s Comet is more common than that! While I will probably live to see Halley’s Comet in 2061, I’m not counting on 2117 just yet.
In case you were wondering, it isn’t actually that bad to stare at the sun. I mean, you wouldn’t want to make a regular habit of it, but it isn’t going to make you blind, either, if you take the occasional glimpse. Even if your photoreceptors get damaged, they regenerate. A permanent lesion (scotoma) doesn’t form unless you stare at it. The greatest risk is damage to your lens, which can discolor due to UV damage over several decades, but not minutes. If anything, you’ll stop looking at the sun when it starts to hurt and long before it causes permanent damage. Eclipses are still dangerous because the sun dims enough that your pupil begins to dilate, letting in more light even as the sun remains awfully bright, but that won’t happen here.
At this point I’m not sure if I have a good vantage for seeing the transit or not. Normally I would be in Seattle, which it turns out will be one of the better places in the U.S. to see the transit at sunset (if I interpret the chart below correctly, being closer to the white region means even if we only see the transit at sunset, we’ll see more of it and earlier). However, weather being what it is here, and with the Olympics just across the Sound, that’s probably wishful thinking. I can’t remember the last time I saw a really good sunset in Seattle, unlike the California coast.
Instead, I’ll be at BlogWorld in New York. Is this any better? The transit will only be visible near sunset, and while the ground is certainly flatter on the East Coast, there’s no ocean to look out over. In fact, I’ll be in the densest urban environment in the country. It might be a good idea for me to check if the Empire State Building is hosting a viewing party on the observation deck…
Contacts I and II will occur in New York at 6:10 and 6:27 PM, respectively, meaning when Venus first becomes visible in front of the sun and then becomes separate (moves away from the edge). But the main event will be below the horizon. In Seattle, contacts I and II will occur at 3:10 and 3:27 PM, respectively, with Venus nearing the center of the Sun around 4:30 PM. These times don’t make much sense to me because the sun sets awfully late up here in the summer, but I always have trouble converting from UTC. You can get your local times here.
Megan is coming out with me for the preceding weekend, but she won’t be there for the actual viewing. Too bad. 🙁 But maybe this means we can each watch from our respective locations and report back. That’s kind of cool–a shared experience from opposite ends of the country.