Thursday, 7 June 2012

Full Circle: the Transit of Venus and a Diamond Jubilee...


The SDO satellite captures an 
ultra high-definition image of the transit of Venus
 across the face of the sun from space
 According to the Guardian UK online, it's "a rare astronomical event that happens when Venus travels across the face of the sun and appears as a small black dot on its surface". Transits happen in pairs, 8 years apart, followed by gaps of  121.5 and 105.5 years.  It's therefore been a privilege to live through two of these, in June 2004 and this week, on Tuesday 5th June 2012. The next one is due in December 2117, so in case you can't stick around to see it, here (on the right) is one memorable image from Tuesday night.
              
The idea that our sister planet Venus should be circling the sun, should of course, remind us of the orbitting that our own planet is currently doing. As you read this, you are precariously balanced on a ball of rock that's apparently moving around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. If you suffer from motion sickness, then please take a moment to recover...

We rotate into night after around 24 hours. We orbit the sun in one of our Earth years. In that time we move 940 million kilometres through our galaxy. To borrow a metaphor from Owl City, it seems to me that we're riding "a disco ball just hanging by a thread."


...Meanwhile, on planet Earth, on the same day that the transit of Venus was due to be seen, on some tiny islands called the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. It's only the second time a British monarch  has reigned for sixty years. As I watched some grainy footage of Queen Victoria's 1897 Diamond Jubilee, I marvelled at the massive display of patriotism that accompanied that event. And, after some years of apparently losing popularity, it seems that affection for royalty has come back into vogue in 2012.

It's true that in life, sometimes things come full circle. The Diamond Jubilee Regatta on the River Thames was the largest of its kind for centuries, reminding us of a bygone era. The Diamond Jubilee concert combined some fresh faces with others who have not been seen for a while, returning them to our consciousness and reminding us that their music has accompanied the evolution of life in the UK over the past sixty years.

The 2004 transit of Venus from
the Flagler Beach Pier in Florida

Then, in the Diamond Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving from St Paul's Cathedral, London, the words of a timeless poem, Psalm 19, were revisited in song. Transmitted live across the islands that my feet are fixed to, the sentiment brought me back to the transit of Venus and the Earth's almost invisible rotation and orbit of the sun. "...The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge... In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun...The sun rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat."

In the eight years since we last witnessed a transit of the sun by Venus, all of us, like the planet itself, have been making our way through space at an astonishing speed. Yet, when things come full circle, it's good to stop, take a breath, and reflect awhile about where we're going next...



(This post was written for Theme Thursday 7th June, 2012 on the theme of "Full Circle".)

8 comments:

  1. I've been really impressed with watching the events of the queen's Diamond Jubilee. I bet that regatta on the River Thames was very impressive. I enjoyed your write!

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    1. Yes-it was a really enjoyable weekend. I'm not that into boats but it looked very impressive nonetheless. Thanks for reading and commenting, David.

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  2. This explains why I'm dizzy much of the time...

    :-)

    Pearl

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    1. You know Pearl, I stopped to think about the world moving round and I think I actually made myself a bit dizzy just by thinking about it :)

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  3. What a lovely sight of Venus ~ And I enjoyed all the pictures and videos from your Diamond Jubilee ~ Cheers and have a good weekend ~

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    1. Thanks. Hope yours is a good one too!

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  4. ha....it has been pretty cool to see the pictures of venus...and amazing to think on those terms about our own planet...spinning on....and tying in the jubilee which was pretty cool to see as well...and it all just keeps spinning...

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    1. Really enjoyed thinking about both, Brian. It was a good theme that you chose-got me thinking.

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