This morning, it seemed like just another sunny day in San Francisco’s perpetual age of Aquarius. The hippies, pseudo-hippies, and tenderloin panhandlers were out in full force thanks to the glorious weather (We’re right on the edge of the foggy season, but we keep lucking out with sunny 65 degree days this week). The clear skies also made it an especially great day for astronomy lovers, as I learned when I stepped off Muni’s N line at Duboce Park. Turns out that one of the best spots in the city for dog walking and boy watching is also suitable for stargazing.
It’s hard to resist striking up a conversation with a handsome fellow who’s down on his knees with his hands around a big old telescope. So I ended up chatting with Tim DeBenedictis, the founder of SF-based Southern Stars and a self-described “space geek.” He had all sorts of gear set up in the park and was super psyched because “in about fifteen minutes, the Transit of Venuswill take place.”
Now, I see lesbians on the Muni every day, but Tim explained that this was something special: Rarely, but predictably, the planet Venus passes between the earth and the sun, so you can actually see it—as a small black dot—moving across the sun’s face. This won’t happen again until December 10, 2117. So if you missed it, you really missed it. Sigh. (Take a look at the NASA video at the end of this post, though.)
Tim’s company has developed astronomy software at all levels: from systems for use in planetariums to the popular SkySafari smartphone app, which uses astronomical database information combined with the phone’s gyroscope and compass to let you spot constellations, planets, and other space stuff.
If you caught today’s big event, or if reading about it sets you all aquiver a la Lance Bass, check out the Bay Area’s terrific planetariums: The Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, The Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, and the Lawrence Hall of Science planetarium in Berkeley.
Check out the Transit of Venus video after the jump