Been to Chai and why and the topic today was Transit of Venus next week. 'Chai & why' is an event organised by TIFR, it takes place at Prithvi theater, Juhu, first Sunday of every month. The speaker was so young and yet so thorough and brilliant at her topic, I was amazed by her. She is part of TIFR astronomy team and was part of the astronomy club in her college. She also advised kids to appear for the Olympiad exams taken all over India.
So the Venus is going to pass through between the Earth and the Sun. It happens only twice in a lifetime. It happened last time on 8 June 2004 and now happening on 6 June 2012. Basically it usually happens in a pair with 8 years gap. Next time it will happen after approx 121 years later and then 8 years and then 105 years and then 8 years and so on. So basically the pair happens either in June or December (alternately. i.e. This time the pair is in June, after 121 years the pair will happen in December and then after 105 years pair in December). The transit is nothing but Venus passing through the passage between the Earth and the Sun. It does pass through this passage every 1.6 years but we dont see it every time it does so. The reason is, the orbit of the Earth and that of Venus are not in same plain. They come in same plain only during above mentioned time lines.
So I was quite curious to ask the lady that if it is only matter of a planet passing through the passage between Earth and Sun, then why would it have any negative effect when the moon passes between Earth and Sun, i.e. during Solar Eclipse. As a growing up rebellious kid, I always had trouble believing in Solar eclipse is inauspicious or it has some negative effects on human beings and food. I never believed in all of this. But then came an argument that scientists believe that there are poisonous gases in atmosphere, which I couldnt just ignore or reject that easily. Attending today's lecture made me think again. If its just matter of Moon passing between the Sun and the Earth then why would it release any poisonous gases in environment. The speaker confirmed it. She gave it a whole new perspective. Ages ago when it would go dark during daytime out of nowhere for some time, people didnt have any justifications for the same, making them think that its something abnormal, and thats why the belief of solar eclipse being inauspicious. What about the food going wrong. Well the sudden temperature change during and after solar eclipse might have caused the food to go bad, convincing enough. So thats that. Its funny and sometimes disturbing how we just go on following some traditions, beliefs without ever challenging them or even thinking about them. We never try to connect our day-to-day life with the education we get or the science knowledge which is flowing freely around us.
Well I am still open if somebody still has a convincing argument about the solar eclipse as long as it makes sense in some way. But as far as I am concerned, next time I insist on following regular activities during solar eclipse, I will be 100% sure about what I am doing.
In general the experience of attending the 'Chai and why' was fantastic and now I think we will try and make it at least once in a month to either Prithvi theater on first Sunday of every the month or to Ruparel college third Sunday of every month. The crowd was enthusiastic and ranging from 8 years old to 55+. We also got to register for the Venus transit viewing through telescope happening at TIFR on 6 June 2012, looking forward to it.
Update: Due to clouds and rain, we couldnt watch the venus transit live. We had to be content with the live broadcast by NASA