On Tuesday June 5, 2012 an event occurred, that in all probability, will not be seen again by any living soul on the planet today, if not for a very few of us. The planet Venus transited the the sun. A transit is when a planet passes in between the sun and earth. It is the same event as an eclipse, however in this case because the planet’s distance from the earth is so great, it cannot block out the entire sun. Rather, it appears as a black dot on the disk of the sun.
As the transit continues, Venus has five points that are of interest, First Contact, Second Contact, Greatest Transit, Third Contact and Fourth Contact. The contact points are when an edge of Venus touches the edge of the Sun. First and second contact occur when Venus enters into the disk of the sun and third and fourth when it is exiting. Of course the first and fourth contacts are to say the least not very exciting as Venus is outside of the disk and not seen. Second contact, when Venus is completely in the Sun as shown above, is the first exciting celestial moment.
From there the traveler, which is the meaning of the word planet from ancient Greek, planetai, which literally meant traveling or wandering star, because the planets were “stars” but they continually moved around the sky appearing in the various constellations throughout the year, continued on its way across the face of the sun. Today of course we know that they are spherical masses of either rock or gas that reflect the light of the sun back to us here on earth and seen in the night time sky.
The 2012 transit of Venus began at 3:06 pm PDT and continued and was in progress at the time of sunset. It reached its Greatest Transit point at 6:29 pm PDT, which is the point where Venus is closets to the center of the sun. From this point onward it will approach the edge of the sun and Third Contact as it leaves the disk.
The ending for us here in California was anti-climatic. The Sun slowly sank into the cloud laden sky with Venus still well within its disk. It was an event that I will remember for the rest of my life, an event that comes only once every 105 years and one that I am very fortunate to have been witness to.
I hope you all had a chance to see this in person. If not, take care of your self as you will need to live another 105 years to see it again.