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October 2017

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Jun. 6th, 2012

Heavy cloud cover, with occasional sprinkles. Deep down, I knew there would be. I kind of learned my lesson about rare astronomical events early. There was a lovely full solar eclipse that I could see --- well, it was only partial from our latitude, but it was there anyway --- back when I was in first grade, which certainly fueled my interest in the stars, which was there already. And with the perfect spoiling that can go along with being in first grade I figured there should be a solar eclipse wherever I was every year or two, and indeed, they arranged for a solar eclipse when I was in second grade, but there I learned the lesson that they'd bring cloudy weather. (That it was February didn't help.) And worse, that the next one would be like forever away.

There was an annular solar eclipse my senior year as an undergraduate, just as I was getting accustomed to the idea I was moving out of state, impossibly far away, for graduate school. The coincidence of the rare astronomical event with this turning point in my life satisfied my sense of aesthetics, and I could even watch much of it from the top of the physics building, as the strange light shrouded Piscataway, and the shadows of trees got to be most bizarre.

The 2004 transit of Venus I missed because it barely got started in the morning, and while I was living in Singapore --- just at the edge of the points where the whole transit would be visible at sunset --- I was back home for a sibling's wedding. I don't begrudge him that.

This past month, as I approach a fresh major transition in life, has been a remarkably fruitful one for astronomical events. Last month's eclipse was on the wrong side of the world for me, of course, but we also had a partial lunar eclipse this weekend (visible only at moonset around here), and there's no denying the transit of Venus as a quite exciting thing.

But, yes, there just wasn't any seeing Venus --- there was barely any seeing the Sun, except as this white halo at the edge of some clouds --- today. Too bad. I'll have to catch the next one.

You know, this has to be a total gimme day for picking the subject matter of the Astronomy Picture Of The Day. It's like the Military Channel figuring out what to program for on D-Day or Pearl Harbor Day.

Trivia: In the 21 October 1876 Scientific American a letter was published from an amateur astronomer in Montclair, New Jersey, who claimed to have seen a transit of Vulcan the previous 23 July. The same issue contained a report from Reverend E R Craven, claiming Professor Joseph S Hubbard had repeatedly seen Vulcan with the Yale College telescope, but had no notes because ``the transit was an entire surprise'', and sadly Hubbard was now dead. Source: In Search Of Planet Vulcan: The Ghost In Newton's Clockwork Universe, Richard Baum, William Sheehan.

Currently Reading: The People Of Ocean County: A History Of Ocean County, New Jersey, David D Oxenford.

You know, however frustrated I might get in my career, I'll never be as frustrated as Guillaume Le Gentil.

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