Tuesday, June 05, 2012

"... a Goddess descended from light to Matter." Happy Transit Day!

I'm celebrating the Transit of Venus taking place on the 5th and 6th of June 2012 by reading the essential fictional account of the Transit of Venus observed and measured by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in Cape Town on the 5th and 6th of June 1761 (a few years before they drew the line across America that symbolically separates us from our less-liberal brethren).
Turn the first hundred pages of Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon for more reading pleasure and information about tangency, parallax, and the movement of heliocentric bodies, but here's a short paragragh from that long book to whet your appetite:

"Ladies, Ladies," Mason calls. "--You've seen her in the Evening Sky, you've wish'd upon her, and now for a short time will she be seen in the Day-light, crossing the Disk of the Sun, -- and do make a Wish then, if you think it will help. -- For Astronomers, who usually work at night, 'twill give us a chance to be up in the Day-time. Thro' our whole gazing-lives, Venus has been a tiny Dot of Light, going through phases like the Moon, ever against the black face of Eternity. But on the day of this Transit, all shall suddenly reverse, -- as she is caught, dark, embodied, solid, against the face of the Sun,-- a Goddess descended from light to Matter." (page 92 of Henry Holt hardcover)

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