Venus and Diamonds

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend has been really enjoyable, if frustrating with the ‘typical’ English weather.  It’s unseasonably cold and I’ve had fires lit to get over the chill.  I’m never quite sure whether it’s too cold to put the tomatoes and corn out on the patio bench to harden off, or whether it’s too cold for that.  I hope they survive and I expect they will.

We had a very nice Saturday and I put the guinea pigs out for some grass, styling it as a Picnic in the Park for them, with added flags and bunting.  Well, I enjoy it.  Then it rained all the way through Sunday but cleared up in time for me to play a golf match on Monday afternoon, and stayed dry for the golf competition for Tuesday morning.  Disappointingly though, the rain set in as forecast and has scuppered my plans for the Transit of Venus.

This is an important astronomical event which takes place twice every hundred years or so.  The oribit of Venus is between Earth and the Sun, but, like a lunar eclipse, the Earth, Sun and Venus have to be in precise positions in order for us to be able to see the shadow of Venus against the Sun.  The last Transit was in 2004 when I was working in London, and I remember rising early to get a record of the first crossing of the solar disc via my binoculars projecting the sun onto a piece of card.  This was a remarkably efffective technique and let me record the progress of the Transit over the whole of its period, from the office, outside another office where we had a meeting, and again back in the office until Venus’s shadow cleared the Sun entirely.

This year I had checked some time ago that the main part of the Transit would only be visible from the Pacific Rim.  Here in the east of England, the Sun would rise at 4.40 with the Transit well under way and have just an hour before the Transit finished.  I had made some fairly elaborate plans to get over to the coast for an uninterrupted view of the surnise, then do a bird survey, then play golf on the way home!  Alas, the rain and cloud will put paid to that.  We will not see the sunrise through 8 oktas of cloud.  I don’t do the bird surveys in the rain either as the birds tend to hunker down (although if feeding young they’ll be on the move, but it does make writing on the recording papr somewhat soggy).

I’ll just have to sleep in for a change.


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