The Transit by Mayank Chhaya
I tried for three hours but in vain to watch the Venus in transit against the Sun last evening.
Not equipped with a proper solar filter I was not sure how I was going to do it. And then I had my eureka moment. Of course, the black garbage bag, I told myself. I first put on my sunglasses,folded the bag once over and held it up at the Sun. That was too much for the Sun to penetrate. So I unfolded it and tried a thinner filter. That worked perfectly making the sun look like a resplendent egg yolk but not so sharp as to blind me.
With the filter in place, I tried every fifteen minutes to catch the Earth’s younger sister in transit. When I first saw a hazy dot, it turned out to be something on my own right pupil. I rubbed my eyes and tried again. I again saw a similar dot which was but a speck of dust on my sunglasses. Then I finally saw what I thought was the second planet from the Sun but it was, in fact, a deformity in the trash bag. My career as an astronomer was not going too well.
After several unsuccessful attempts I tried one final time as the Sun melted behind trees and turned into a giant brush stroke of mauve. By that time it was just too late. I came inside, dumped some of the trash into the black garbage bag and left it by the curbside for the Wednesday morning pickup.
As I write this I can hear the garbage truck’s squeaky halts by the homes in the neighborhood. My bag has just been picked up and thrown into a pile of dozens more, one indistinguishable from another. My bag should tell the other bags that only hours before it was held aloft to block the mighty Sun and how successful it was. It can also boast that if its master, namely me, has managed to keep his vision intact it is entirely because of it.
As always I digress from the main subject at hand. I eventually saw the transit live on the net courtesy of the NASA which was streaming it worldwide.
At 108 million kilometers from the Sun, the Venus is about 30 percent closer to it than the Earth. We are about 150 million kilometers. It is very similar to our own planet in terms of its diameter, 12 103.6 kms compared to ours at 12 756.3 kms and mass 4.869 x 1024 compared to ours at 5.972 x 1024. However, its axis of rotation of 177.36 degrees compared to ours at 23.5 degrees makes it go around from east to west. Or in other words, the Sun does indeed rise in the west on the Venus.
The Venusian atmosphere is almost entirely carbon dioxide. Clouds there contain sulfuric acid. It is almost like a classic case of a planet permanently trapped in a greenhouse nightmare. If we work hard enough, we can achieve that level of utterly lethal toxicity.
That brings me back to the trash bag. If we continue to produce this level of trash we might manage to become Venus-like because trash in landfill does produce the greenhouse gas methane.
I knew I could connect the Venusian transit and garbage bags.