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The Transit of Venus

June 4, 2012

When, as a blogger, you find yourself promising to write more and better blog, beware — a stumble, silence, stagnation is almost sure to follow. It is very fortunate that this blog is as vigorously unpopular as it is, or I would be feeling a lot of guilt for letting The People down of late. The great bloggers, the ones with hundreds and hundreds of readers, they never let those readers down. Their lives must be hell. A constant soul-crushing Stakhanovian grind.

Tomorrow Venus will cross between the Earth and the Sun. Weather permitting, Charlottesvillains will be able to watch the beginning of the transit of Venus through suitably filtered telescopes at Darden Towe Park, starting at 6pm. By the time the transit happens again, you will be dead. It doesn’t seem like much to see, a dark dot slowly and silently crossing the face of the sun, but you won’t be able to see it again.

In the Eighteenth Century the observation of the transit was a very big deal, giving astronomers the means to measure the size of the solar system, and several expeditions were dispatched from Europe to perform it. Hijinks ensued (weather tended not to be permitting), and the story is one of the oft-told classics of astronomical raconteurs, well worth checking out.

I do not think Shirley Hazzard’s novel, The Transit of Venus, is quite as exceptional as many people claim, but it is certainly very good

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