Tonight was the night whereby Venus transited the Sun. And although it’s considered by many to be a phenomenon, I don’t ever think in those terms… I believe there’s always a bigger picture being unveiled to us, if we simply are of the mind and heart to pay attention. Venus’ transit of the Sun is an event that won’t happen for another 105 years, until December 2117. That in itself must be significant!
I believe we are living in exciting and powerful times. And apparently, many others feel the same way… Crowds gathered and members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada graciously offered their solar telescopes to the public for this brief up- close glimpse of Venus. And it all started at 5:30pm on the grounds of the local science and technology museum. Here’s my bit…
I work as an announcer at a local radio station. I had been mentioning this event on-air for the past few days wishing I wouldn’t be able to make it (there’s a little bit of Jodi Foster’s character, Ellie from the movie ‘Contact’ in me). I wanted to observe Venus through a telescope, but for some reason I kept thinking I couldn’t. I have no car… I’d be working until 6:15pm… I didn’t make arrangements for a media pass…. what if I have to pay for parking… I have no money… I wouldn’t make it on time… I don’t want to take the bus… it’s too far….blah, blah, blah!
Anyway, I friend lent me his car this afternoon, completely out of the blue. When I finished my shift at the radio station, all I was thinking was that I had to get the car back to him, even though we hadn’t stipulated a time. After finishing the last newscast at 6:00pm, I got into the car and fiddled with the windows as today was a particularly warm summer day. I was only thinking of going home. Even as I spoke of the event during the newscast, it still didn’t dawn on me that I could go to the event. At least not until I drove out of the parking lot.
After my ‘ah-ha moment’ (as Oprah would say), I drove down the long stretch of Hunt Club Road across the south end of the city. I wasn’t quite sure of the exact route to the museum, but cars were making room for me at each missed turn.
As I turned onto the road where the museum is located, there were rows of parked cars everywhere. People had come in droves to witness the event.
There were crowds of people all over the place. The parking lot was full, and cars were parked illegally in red zones, and up and down both sides of the street leading into the museum; the media was also there capturing the experience of the event.
I could see from yards away, the museum parking lot and the vast front lawns of the museum. People were lined-up everywhere for telescope observations… and apparently for awhile, based on the number of people. Not allowing myself to chicken out of this event because of a would-be lack of parking or the line-ups, I actually found a perfect parking spot in a fire zone right in front of the museum doors (as did many others). I thought I might get ticketed, but it appeared no one else had. So, I felt safe to leave the car in that spot.
As I walked across the parking lot, a man walked towards me and started sharing his experience and giving me pointers as to the best and quickest way to get a view through one of the telescopes. The line-up for the big observatory, he pointed out, was the longest line-up, and I should obviously avoid that one. But some people had brought their own solar telescopes and were sharing them with the public. I felt pressed to get into a line, any line, to behold Venus with my eyes, but I remained patient and attentive as the man finished with his experience and directions. He then handed me a disposable, cardboard solar viewer. And just as I was about to ask him what he intended to charge me for it, he said it was free.
So, I mozied over to the crowds hoping to meet up with a friend of mine from the local astronomy society, who would let me view the event through his telescope. Disappointingly, he had gone to Kingston, where the weather was better for the viewing. Despite this glitch, I walked among the crowd for a bit trying to assess whether Venus was worth the wait. Needless to say, and because I’m writing this blog, I flowed into a line, and decided to stay and be content. I put on my nifty disposable cardboard viewer and started my experience of the event before I got to a telescope.
Well, that little contraption kept me long entertained. People around me, were sporting them as well. But oddly enough, they were saying that they couldn’t see Venus, only the Sun.
I was confused… there she was in my plain sight. A delicate black spot against the brilliance of the Sun between 12 o’clock and 1 o’clock… Venus, the Goddess of Love! And the Sun, rich, proud and massive, holding the light for all to see his beautiful Venus as she passed before him. I starred at this phenomenon for the longest time, and with such immense awe; I felt I was holding the moment. The last time I felt such profound humility, I was on Dreamer’s Rock on Manitoulin Island during my vision quest in the mid 90’s.
Finally, I shared with those in line around me the position of Venus I was observing…. and they too began to see. And the ouuuu’s and aaaaaaa’s started up in the crowd.
Parents, grandparents, children… everyone seemed so connected to the event. Some knowing something about the phenomenon, others just wanting to be a part of it. Stories were being shared … tales of eclipses past and of the latest in Sci-Fi movies.
One teenage-couple behind me pointed out, that it wasn’t as exciting as they thought it would be… “like, you know… it’s not like playing a video game or watching a Harry Potter movie.” I chuckled to myself. I’m the type that runs to meteor showers, eclipses and Venus transits. They’re the best movies in the world… This was a natural phenomenon! And that in itself, they admitted, could be exciting.
It wasn’t a video game or a Harry Potter movie. It wasn’t suppose to be. It was bigger than all of us or anyone of us; a sight of wonder for our eyes to behold… a ‘Universe’ movie on the biggest screen we have. And a testimonial to all that is unknown, and yet to be discovered about ourselves, who we are and the world we live in…
I eventually saw Venus through a telescope; but it wasn’t the same as my first glimpse though the disposable. It took about 30 mins from parking the car, to viewing, to leaving…. and then it was over. As I arrived home, after a clear, sunny day, the Universe closed the curtains on her grand performance. The clouds rolled in at 8:30pm, and it started to rain… once again, right on cue!
Here are some helpful links:
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
Wonders of Astronomy (my friend, Gary Boyle)