Posts Tagged ‘venus’

Call out to Aussies! Watch transit of Venus on the tall ship Endeavour

// February 3rd, 2012 // Comments Off on Call out to Aussies! Watch transit of Venus on the tall ship Endeavour // Science at Home, Science Communication

HMB Endeavour in full sail

True blue replica of Captain Cook’s tall ship HMB Endeavour is circumnavigating Australia and dropping into me home town Adelaide for a spell. Australians can sail the tall ship replica Endeavour in June 2012 to watch the rare transit of Venus from Lord Howe Island, Cook’s real reason for mapping the east coast of Australia and claiming it for England. Read on, Macduff…

You know how they say when one door closes, a window opens? For me it’s the opposite. I closed all the windows to open the door, and an opportunity has flown SMACK into the glass. I can’t go on the HMB Endeavour, ‘cos I’m leaving Australia soon! Bummed out doesn’t begin to describe it.

For you peeps still in Aus, here’s the lowdown.

Cook’s Endeavour is currently sailing with a full, hammock-napping, rigging-climbing, star-gazing crew about Australia.

Over halfway through its yearlong trek, it’s docking in Adelaide from 16-23 February 2012 to open to those of the public keen to run their hands across the varnished wood and polished brass and marvel at the many ropes. Swoon. Details here.

If you, like me, want a closer inspection of the vessel and to get in those hammocks yourself, here’s your chance.

From end of May to mid June, the Endeavour is sailing from Sydney to Lord Howe Island to observe the transit of Venus on June 6. It’s a prime viewing location, and one of the first spots in Australia to see the rarest of eclipses.

Cook travelled to Tahiti in 1769 to view the transit, part of a global movement to find out the size of the solar system (specifically, how far Earth is from the Sun, an astronomical unit) by watching the transit in different locations around the world. Worked pretty well, too!

All Australia is in a good spot to see the transit, when Venus moves between Earth and the Sun and looks like a small black dot on our bright sun disk.

Don’t actually look at the Sun, will you, ‘cos you’ll damage your eyes. Use eclipse glasses or shadows. Though I do find eye patches rather fetching…

Transit of Venus, credit NASA/LMSAL

Transits of Venus happen in pairs eight years apart, but each pair is separated by over a hundred years. This is the last one in the pair, so if you miss this transit – that’s it until 2117 when we’ll probably be dead or robots.

This is another opportunity that has faceplanted into my closed window. I’m going to be in South America during the transit, one of the few places where you get to see zip, zilch, zero. Bummer…

So I’ll be living vicariously through you, dear Australian readers, so make the most of it! See it at home, or hit up the Endeavour and make a trip from it. The voyage in June is $4000, so quite pricey but a trip of a lifetime! Crew will be selected by ballot, and you need to enter here before 10 February 2012 – which is really soon. Do it now. Are you doing it? Go, right now, click here, live my dream. Take a pirate hat!

I travelled on the Young Endeavour back in me younger days, another replica tall ship used as a training sail vessel, it’s one of those memories that just sticks with you. Like seeing Stonehenge or being in a circus. Ballots for that are open too, but only available to people 16-23 years old. If that’s you, check it out and apply now!

Looks like I’m missing out on the sailing action in Australia this year, but I’ve got some pretty sweet plans myself. I’m heading out that door and leaving in just over a week for Vancouver, Canada, where I’m hitting the AAAS annual meeting. I’ll tell you all about it!

The Planet Venus

// April 5th, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Science at Home

Apologies for the slackness of my posts, I was in Adelaide for the Easter weekend and all my time was spent with family and SexyMan. But now I’m back. Yay.

Last week I wrote about air pressure in space, and to carry on the spaceman spiff theme I thought I’d write about my favourite planet, Venus.

Venus is named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty, who’s story is very similar to the Greek Aphrodite. She emerged fully formed from the ocean, riding a wave of ocean foam. As the most attractive goddess, she was quickly married off to the god of blacksmiths so she didn’t stir things up too much with the other goddesses.

It didn’t work too well though, she had Cupid/Eros with Mars/Aries the god of war. Cupid makes trouble as often as he makes matches, and inherited not only his mother’s penchant for romance, but also his father’s hotheadedness. Venus was always getting into shenanigans.

Enough about the goddess though (unless you want to hear more? I know more! I love myths! There was this one guy called Adonis… no, no. Focus Captain. SCIENCE)

Okay, I’m back. Here is the planet Venus. Beautiful isn’t it?

Image credit NASA

Venus sure is the brightest body in the night sky after the moon, but instead of beautiful I would call it HFFA. Hot from far away, but up close it’s nasty (still hot, but not in a good way). It’s shrouded by clouds, which storm more thundery than a tempest.

There is no rain, at 465 degrees Celsius it all boils away. Those clouds are not even water, rather sulfuric acid.

Its atmosphere is heavier than any other planet, and not because of gravity. Indeed, the gravity is slightly less on Earth, you would probably lose a good five kilos of weight if you could survive. The gasses are just very dense, there’s a LOT of them in a little space.

The major gas is carbon dioxide, which may have created a runaway greenhouse effect and caused the immensely high temperature.

The air pressure on Venus is 90 times higher than on Earth, so strong that it crushes all our space probes within an hour of hitting the atmosphere. Seriously. Like a beer guzzler who just finished a cold can. Crunch. Like that. Yeah.

Also women are from Venus, which explains why we are smoking hot and probe crushingly cosmic.

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