5 Minutes of Sunshine, 3 Hours of Shade

05 Jun

This post brought to you by baseball, Mom, and apple pie*.

Ah, the glamorous life of an astronomer.

If you’ve been paying attention to science-y things of late, you know that today is the day of a rare astronomical event: the transit of Venus across the disc of the Sun. This happens in pairs separated eight years apart (there was one in 2004) about once every 120 years or so**. So, you know, this is a once-(or-twice-if-you’re-lucky)-in-a-lifetime thing.

What we wanted to see.

Naturally I was on hand at the local grab-all-the-telescopes-we-can-find-and-cobble-together-some-projectors-from-binoculars-and-whatever-else-is-lying-around event. Because, really, what else was I going to do on my last day of work/the day of the most important election of my voting career? I was going to Teach People Science, Godsdamnit!

What we saw.

Of course, the weather had other plans. The transit was due to begin a bit after 5PM CDT at our location, so naturally the sky clouded up around 4:30. Any astronomer will cheerfully tell you that this is par for the course, but we did get a lot of rather disappointed people lurking hopefully. Only the truly dedicated were rewarded for their lurking, however, as we got our first clear view of the Sun a little before 7. After a comically frantic race to get all the ‘scopes aligned (picture seven astronomers dashing through a crowd of forty trying to man ten telescopes), we had about half an hour of on-again, off-again viewing of the transit.

Then I had to race to the polling place to vote before they closed, so I have no idea how the viewing was after that. But there are times when democracy must trump even rare astronomical events.

If you live in the US and have somehow missed the political uproar in Wisconsin, congratulations: You are officially the most obtuse person on the planet. Suffice to say it’s been intense. To quote my mother, “I don’t know whether to get drunk if Barrett wins or get drunk if Barrett loses.” We are most definitely not Walker fans; he’s the subject of the most profane post I’ve allowed myself to publish on what is ostensibly a PG blog.

So, yes. Astronomy, politics, and my last day of work have combined to sap what little energy I usually have. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be curled up with my knitting, one eye on the Mauna Kea webcast, the other on election results.

*Or, more accurately, planet-wrangling (shut up, it’s a sport if I say it’s a sport), Mom, and the donuts my boss used to bribe me on my last day of work.

**I’m failing in my duty as Public Educator Whether They Like It or Not, but I was on my feet for almost twelve hours straight so you’re lucky I have the energy to post this much.


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