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June 8, 2012
The transit of Venus

On June 5, 2012, we got to see a once-in-a-lifetime event, as the planet Venus crossed in front of the sun

It has been awhile since we have written, but Russell has been out of commission.

His hernia surgery on May 23 went well. There were no complications and he was home that afternoon. (For the record, it was an “indirect inguinal hernia with a weakened floor,” whatever that means.) Russell was up walking (very slowly and very briefly) before the end of the day. He avoided taking any pain medications until the second day, when he was advised they would help him heal faster.

On the other hand, he now has a four-inch scar on his right groin. He calls it his “male C-section.” In addition, his convalescence has been frustrating. He was looking forward to two weeks of reading books and watching DVDs. Unfortunately, he can’t stand, sit, or lie down in the same position for more than about 30 minutes. This makes it hard to concentrate on anything for too long.

Given his condition, he decided to wait before attempting the 2.5-hour ride up to our mountain home (Gail would do the driving). We finally went up on Monday, June 4, in order to witness yet another astronomical event.

In the space of about a month, we have already been treated to both a supermoon and an annular lunar eclipse. On June 5, we would have the opportunity to witness an extremely rare event: the transit of Venus, where the planet Venus passes in front of the sun.

Twice every 100+ years, Venus crosses directly in front of the sun during its orbit (photo from www.wikipedia.org)

And once again, we would be in one of the lucky spots in the world where we would get to see it (photo from www.wikipedia.org)

How rare is this? It only happens two times (in pairs eight years apart) every 100+ years. The last pair of transits ended in 1882; the next pair won’t occur until 2117. In the 1800s, the transit of Venus was used to estimate the size of the solar system using trigonometry.

As astronomy buffs, both Gail and Russell wanted to catch this one-in-a-lifetime event. In fact, we even purchased some solar filter paper from our local telescope shop so we could look directly at the sun. (We’re only sorry we didn’t think of this for the annular lunar eclipse.)

So on Monday morning, June 4, we drove up to the mountain. The first thing we were greeted with was a whopping six (!) dead mice in various traps around the house. Gail’s defenses had finally paid off! She was very glad to have Russell there, because he got the duty of getting all of them out of the house.

After that, Russell pretty much parked himself on the sofa. Although he tried to get up and walk around as much as possible, he spent most of the week with a pile of “Bone” and “Bloom County” graphic novels.

Gail continued working on the hardwood floors. Her goal this trip was to sand and smooth what she had already installed.

Gail, once again on the floor with a power tool

But the real treat came on Wednesday afternoon. By taping the solar filter paper over a pair of binoculars, we were able to watch the slow passage of Venus across the front of the sun. We continued watching until sundown, when the setting sun disappeared behind clouds and we could no longer see anything.

We were able to look directly at the sun by putting solar filter paper over a pair of binoculars

We even took photos, by putting the solar filter paper in front of the camera. You can see Venus as a small dot in the upper right corner of the sun.

We also got to see a pair of deer. Gail happened to spy them from our bedroom window one morning. The next morning, they were back in the same spot at the same time.

Two does wandered from outside our bedroom window down to the main road

Russell’s worst experience was the ride back home on Friday – for some reason, it was a lot more painful than the ride up. He still has several weeks of convalescence ahead of him. At least he is getting to the point of self-sufficiency, which will free Gail up to return to the mountain again.

One more photo: yet another spectacular sunset up on the mountain!


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