Yesterday, Venus passed between the Earth and sun. Over the course of several hours, a tiny black dot rode across the face of the sun. This is a very rare event—it has only been observed a handful of times in human history, and it will not occur again for another 105 years. The goal of one of the first major international scientific collaborations was to observe the transit of 1769. James Cook was sent to the South Pacific, a realm almost entirely unexplored by Europeans at the time, in order to make crucial observations. The result of this collaboration was one of the first solid estimates of the size of the solar system.
A quick run to Google will almost certainly find many profound words and stunning photographs of yesterday’s transit. There is almost nothing that I can add to what has already been said. Still, I went out yesterday and turned my well-protected eyes to the sun. I watched as Venus slowly passed in front of the sun, blotting out a tiny fraction of the sun’s power. Lacking a high quality camera with fancy lenses and filters, I held a pair of eclipse glasses over the lens, and managed to capture the following:
In the same way that a tourist might photograph himself in front of a famous monument, here is my picture of Venus and the sun. I went to a place that was once visited by people like Kepler and Cook. I saw the sights, and rode the rides. The solar system was wheeling and dancing through space, and I was there.