Last Tuesday, June 5th, Venus crossed between our planet and the sun, and for a few hours was visible to witness. This would not happen again till the year 2117. Chicago Adler Planetarium celebrated by inviting folks to free general admission and special viewing opportunities. Over 5,000 visitors attended.
I wore a pink dress and pink heel sandals with a bow strap to the occasion, and brought a cloak if need be. The sun shone brilliantly and warmly. A strong, chilly wind whisked from the lake.
Adler staff had pulled 20 public telescopes to the lawn and covered the lenses with filters to allow safe viewing. They handed out "Eclipse Shades" that offered safe gazing at the sun. Adler astronomers mingled with guests.
Folks lined up at the telescopes. They squinted in the bright sun or lifted the Eclipse Shades atop their noses and gazed up. They chatted and laughed. The wind whirred consistently. Kids ran willynilly playing tag and other running games.
Myself, I felt "on assignment" as the romantic behind A Romantic's Perspective(.com). Afterall, Venus was the goddess of love. Her namesake planet was the brightest in the night sky, and was making her last daylight appearance of the century. It behooved me to cover Adler's celebration.
Videographer Wayne Anderson joined me. We taped my interviewing Michelle Nichols, Master Educator NASA Forum Programs, and Astronomer Dr. Mark Hammergren.
I gazed through the Eclipse Shades. They made the blue sky show like night, and the glaring sun appear like a tame yellow moon. Venus showed as a spec crossing the upper right.
Mr. Anderson and I made way through crowds as we crossed the Adler outdoor paved walkways and the manicured lawn seeking spots for video takes. As media members we were invited to the Planetarium rooftop to gaze through a high-tech camera lens.
We were led to a cozy stairwell, a locked door away from the crowds who enjoyed general admission. The staircase winded tightly and ascended high. When I stepped onto the roof, the wind gusted so strongly I felt that I and my pink heels would be lifted like a puppet being re-positioned on stage.
Yet I held ground, and put on my cloak. The wind blew it back or puffed it by the moment. Here we had a view of the lake and of the Chicago skyline. I enjoyed mostly watching the folks below, and peering through the camera that was angled upward. Here the sun appeared a little bigger against a dusty grey sky. Venus seemed a delicate round dot at the top right.
Shortly, Mr. Anderson and I re-joined the crowd on the lawn. An Adler event hostess announced over a microphone that in a half hour, around 8:30 p.m. CT, the sun would descend behind the Chicago skyline and with it our view of Venus.
Mr. Anderson and I packed up and left. It seemed perplexing that we were among all this commotion over viewing a black dot against the sun.
Grasping the magnitude
Part of the magnitude was that we were all astir among the lake winds and among each other, while 27 million miles into the sky Venus was gracefully crossing in plain view.
Twenty-seven million miles away, and this particular early evening with the help of Eclipse Shades, we could see her. And we could see her better through the public telescopes Adler shared.
This was not only momentous for laypeople like me. 'Twas also eventful for astronomers around the world. This rare appearance allowed them opportunities to study Venus and the planetary paths.
We'll post the video later. Meanwhile:
--- This article is a follow-up to my previous "You Are Cordially Invited" Adler Transit of Venus announcement.
--- For more information on Adler Planetarium, visit here.
--- For more information on A Romantic's Perspective(.com) visit here.
--- Read Jacquée T.'s "Vignettes" weblog post: "To Celebrate Venus -- then, and if I could again."