Sun Transit Turns Eyes Toward Venus

One of several major rare astronomical events to happen this year occurred between  Tuesday night and Wednesday morning calling astronomers and sky watchers out to take a look.  Using special equipment to block the sun’s powerful rays from overpowering the lens, astronomers observed the rare event, not scheduled to take place again for another century.

The planet Venus approached the sun’s outer edge like a tiny black dot moving across its surface.  Many skywatchers were unable to see the spectacle as clouds obscured the phenomenon for much of the western world.  Additionally, those used to watching eclipses would have likely been unable to spot the speck of a planet moving in front of the sun with the overwhelmingly powerful light of the sun.  Nonetheless, lucky observers as far as the Arctic were able to observe the unusual phenomenon when not blanketed by clouds.

One of the interesting things about Venus is its atmosphere, which holds in a considerable amount of heat.  If Venus’ atmosphere were different, it may be able to support life.  The primary problems with this second planet that took center stage last Tuesday are that its planetary pressure is too high (over 90 times Earth’s pressure) and its surface temperature make it so probes attempting to make a landing on its surface are quickly destroyed.

Currently the record holder for the longest time a man-made object successfully functioned on the Venusian surface was the Soviet Venera 13 which lasted just under two hours before going dead.  While colonization of Venus has largely been abandoned by space-faring nations, it still holds the second most habitable environment aside from Earth in terms of planetary pressure and temperature.  The only problem is, this habitable environment is over 50 kilometers above the surface of the planet and is itself devoid of oxygen.

Venus has always been the symbol of the feminine form in Greek mythology and beauty.  Naturally this does translate well into our understanding of its astrological symbolism as well.

Astrologers such as Times of India’s Sunita Chabra has said that the transit of Venus across the sun suggested that Tuesday would not have been a good day for indulgences in the realm of beauty, due to the fact that it was eclipsing the sun from our vantage point.  Chabra went on to say that the three eclipses occurring within the past month may foretell of some level of calamity either by natural disaster or other unknown means in the foreseeable future – although one of the possibilities listed (heavy rainfall) would no doubt be welcomed by areas suffering drought.

While Venus has been explored somewhat, the planet still remains a mystery due to its volatile surface temperatures and highly pressurized atmosphere.  And while examinations of the distant planet make it an unlikely target for colonization in the near future, those watching on the ground have once again witnessed the true magic that surrounds us in our astronomical neighborhood.