Venus is the second planet from the sun, named after the Roman faux goddess of love and beauty.
Except for the Moon, Venus is the brightest object in the night sky. On a clear day, it’s bright enough to see in the daytime. Venus is about the size of Earth.
Next Tuesday evening, June 5, 2012, Venus will cross the face of the sun as viewed from Earth. This is called a Transit of Venus. Venus will appear as a black dot silhouette against the face of the setting sun. The event will be visible on all seven continents around the world.
The 7-hour transit will begin June 5 at 6:09 pm EDT. In the U.S. the transit will be at sunset. Eye protection like eclipse glasses or welding shades should be used.
Transits of Venus are rare because Venus’ orbit is tilted slightly relative to Earth’s orbit. Thus when Venus passes between Earth and the sun, it usually does not pass in front of the sun as viewed from Earth.
Venus Transits come in pairs. Each set of two is separated from other pairs by over 100 years. June’s transit is the second transit of the pair that began with the June 2004 transit. The previous pair was in December 1874 and December 1882. The next transit pair will be in December 2117 and December 2125. Thus this is the last Venus Transit anyone alive today will see.
In the 18th century astronomer Edmund Halley suggested using transits of Venus to determine the size of the solar system. Relative distances between planets were known, but not absolute distances. Halley suggested calculating the distance from Earth to Venus via trigonometry based on observations of the Venus Transit from widely-spaced locations on Earth.
Captain James Cook, who was later killed by natives in Hawaii, was sent to Tahiti to observe the 1768 transit of Venus and collect data for the calculation of the distance to Venus. Bad weather and primitive equipment prevented the precision required. But a century later the 1874 transit was used to calculate the distance to Venus. Following his observations of the transit of Venus, Captain Cook “discovered” Australia.
Venus orbits the sun faster than Earth, taking just under 225 days to complete its trip around the sun. It completes about 1.6 orbits for every orbit of Earth. Because of its shorter year, Venus “passes” the earth every 584 days as it orbits the sun. As Venus passes, it switches from the “Evening Star”, visible after sunset, to the “Morning Star”, visible before sunrise.
Some ancient civilizations thought Venus was two separate entities, the morning star and the evening star. Until the time of Pythagoras in the 6th century BC, the Greeks thought Venus was two separate stars, Phosphorus (morning star) and Hesperus (evening star). The Romans called these “two” stars Lucifer and Vesper respectively. However, according to the Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa (1581 BC), the Babylonians knew that both the morning and evening stars were the same entity.
All planets of the solar system orbit the sun counter-clockwise when viewed from above the sun’s north pole. Most of the planets rotate counter-clockwise. But Venus rotates clockwise about its axis in the opposite direction from that of most planets. This fact creates insuperable difficulties for those who believe in an evolutionary development of the solar system.
But it’s not problematic for those who believe the Almighty spoke the worlds into existence and created the universe with tremendous diversity, beauty, and complexity.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host…For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Read the sequel:
Spica-Mars-Saturn Conjunction with video
©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3)
Thursday May 31, 2012 A.D.
Read my May 2012 newspaper column: Dragons
Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name. Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:26)