The Transit of Venus.

For about 6 hours last night and this morning, our closest neighbouring planet Venus made its way slowly across the face of the sun.

Due to the orbit of Venus running in a different plane to our own, these solar transits happen very infrequently and when they do, you get two in quick succession. The last transit happened only fairly recently in 2004, so if you missed last nights, the next date for your transit diary is 2117…

I have to admit that I didn’t actually see it myself (living in London, you get used to missing out on astronomical wonders) however I did see some of the all female cast of scientists on the BBC last night, and jolly good they were too, although (and I know this is an easy and probably unfair observation) despite their obvious intelligence, knowledge and presentational abilities, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was just me that saw this as a rather obvious “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” thing…

And while I think of it, is it wrong to admit that I sometimes miss being told about science by bearded men in corduroy jackets and big specs imploring me to understand things the proper way, the old fashioned way, with shonky graphics and laboured explanations…. (whatever did happen to James Burke?)…

Still rather Liz Bonin standing where we can see her, than that eternally amazed goon Brian Cox standing stupidly in front of the sun, spewing out similes…

Anyway, there were some stunning photos up on the net by lunch time today with the ones I’ve stolen below being particular favorites… I love the reality check of these images: Venus (a planet I’ve written about before) is not dissimilar in size to our own earth, and averages about 85 million miles away. The Sun is not that much further distant at 95 million miles (which I’ve just learned is 1 Astronomical unit) but just look how f**kin HUGE it is… completely dwarfing tiny Venus… its enough to scare the willies out of you… (to paraphrase Slartibartfast..)

Ever since I saw Sunshine, Danny Boyle’s most excellent and criminally underrated Sci-Fi epic, the sun has literally taken on a new dimension for me. The whole film is soaked with the heat and size and light and orange and red and intensity of our very own star, slowly baking the desperate and increasingly hopeless crew get as they get closer and closer to their destination…

The first couple of pictures below (both from the amazing NASA SDO satellite) show the Sun as I like to think of it in Danny’s film, raging, beautiful and utterly incomprehensible…

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