On Tuesday, June 5, it will be possible to see Venus as the second planet from the sun passes over our earthly field of vision in front of the sun.
This transit of Venus happens only twice every 100 or so years, and for astronomers and star gazers it’s a big deal. The last time Venus was visible passing across the face of the sun was in 1874 and again in 1882. Transits like this occur once every 243 years with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of up to 121.5 years.
I bring attention to this phenomena as a way creating a moment of reflection. From what I have come to understand, and experience, this time of year is one of the busiest for Lake Cowichan residents, as summer is gearing up, Lake Days is now in full swing, the Honeymoon Bay Outdoor Market has started for the season, and the tourists have begun flowing into town to utilize the great outdoor playground this area calls its yard.
There has also been much discussion lately as to the direction the town needs to take in terms of industry, the issue of logging trucks and the dust and debris they produce, what to do about those buildings and properties that might not look up to snuff when compared to what is thought to be desirable; all things that are valid and do require attention and level headed consideration.
However, when we look at something like this Venus transit, how can we not feel as though the issues we face locally are not just a tiny drop in the bucket when compared to the grandness of the universe, or even the complicated beauty and richness of the planet itself?
The transit begins, for us in North America, in the early afternoon on Tuesday and continues for seven hours. Maybe, if the clouds aren’t looming and blocking our view, this will be a good time to take a moment to reflect on our lives and the health and vitality of our communities and our region, and the world as a whole. Just maybe we should give ourselves a little break, while at the same time giving thanks for all that we have, and for the fact that we do not live where there is war, famine, political upheaval, extreme poverty, and the many other tragedies that so many other countries in the world have to face on a daily basis.
Experts recommend number 14 welding goggles for direct, naked eye viewing or some kind of appropriate solar filter for telescopes. This kind of transit is far more harmful to our eyes than a solar eclipse (when the moon passes over the sun) because there is much more exposure to the sun’s rays.
Experts do not recommend using sunglasses, Polaroid filters, smoked glass, exposed colour film, x-ray film, or photographic neutral density filters.
If you do not have proper eye protection, you might want to consider viewing the transit online, or going to a local astronomy club, park, or nature centre.
Happy star gazing, Cowichan Lake, and may Lake Days this year be the best year yet. I’m looking forward to it.