This coming Tuesday, June 5th, the rarest astronomical phenomenon – and also the rarest predictable astrological one – occurs: the Transit of Venus. The transit is the movement of the planet Venus across the face of the Sun from our vantage point on earth and is the rarest eclipse we will see because it only occurs every 105-130 years. These transits happen in pairs, 8 years apart – the previous transit being in 2004; before then, the last pair of Venus transits were in 1874 and 1882. The next time a Transit of Venus will occur will be in 2117 and 2125.
Much of the world will get to see the transit on Tuesday; for those of us in North America, the transit will take place around sunset.
Since this is an eclipse, standard eclipse-viewing rules apply, i.e., do not look directly at it! (for safe-viewing precautions, please go to http://www.exploratorium.edu/venus/question2.html). And fortunately you don’t have to: there will be live webcasts of the event from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii on June 5th beginning at 22:00 UT (6:00 pm, EDT – click here for when the Webcast will begin in your time zone) at http://www.exploratorium.edu/venus/index.html. This is an excellent, informative website by the way so check it out.
We’ve had a number of astronomical events recently – the total Solar Eclipse on May 20th, a partial Lunar Eclipse tomorrow (6/4). So what is the significance of a Transit of Venus? For one thing, historically, these transits have been very important in scientific research and specifically in establishing the measurement of the Astronomical Unit (AU).
In a broader sense, and taking into account astrological significance as well, these transits seem to indicate periods of time in human activity when new breakthroughs occur on a global level in which we come to view our world in a very different way.
The last 4 Transits of Venus: A few examples from history…
The Transits of Venus in 1518 and 1526 coincide with the “age of the explorers” – Magellan completed the first circumnavigation of the globe on his expedition between 1519-1522. The Renaissance was in full swing bringing with it a rebirth in the arts and after the 2nd Venus transit, the Polish astronomer Copernicus published his work that placed the Sun at the center of the solar system rather than the Earth (heliocentric model vs. the established/accepted geocentric model).
Shortly before the next Transits of Venus in 1631 and 1639, the telescope was invented and the astronomer Galileo used the new invention to confirm Copernicus’ heliocentric theory by observing the phases of Venus. Rembrandt painted his famous “Night Watch” painting around the time of the second transit and Sir Isaac Newton’s works were published a little later, advancing the Scientific Age.
With the Venus transits of 1761 and 1769, the works of Voltaire and Rousseau in literature, and Mozart in music significantly changed the world and this was seen as the ‘Age of Enlightenment.’ The American and French Revolutions happened soon after the 2nd transit and the planet Uranus was discovered.
And finally, the transits of 1874 and 1882 saw the acceptance of many new inventions, such as Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone (first US patent for the telephone awarded in 1876), and it was the age of industrialization on a mass scale. A new form of art, Impressionism, appeared on the scene during this time concurrently with the increasing use of photography.
So, now that we’re up to date, what did the Transit of Venus bring us in 2004 (after having sat out the whole of the 20th century)? Well, for one thing, it brought us Facebook (online in February, 2004) and shortly before that, MySpace (August, 2003). Now, before you laugh (and ponder the absurdities of going from the Renaissance and Mozart to… um, Facebook)… consider that from its beginnings in a Harvard dorm room, Facebook has grown in just 8 short years to have approximately 1 billion users – or 1 in 7 people on the planet! Think about that for a second… 1 in 7. And even though MySpace has by now become pretty much an afterthought and doesn’t receive anywhere near the traffic it used to, at one time (2006) it was the busiest website on the Internet, surpassing even Google.
Love it or hate it, curse it at times and grumble about the Timeline or whatever (personally, I like it), Facebook has become the de facto social networking site (for now) and its “timeline” lines up nicely with these current Venus transits – launched online in 2004; becoming a publicly-traded company in 2012 when it went IPO about a month or so ago. According to reports, Facebook is now getting into the hardware business and is hoping to build its own smartphone by next year.
Of course, Facebook is only one of several popular social networking sites, including Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Google Plus, YouTube, etc. and then throw in all the blog sites, all of which can be grouped together as social media. Social media itself wouldn’t be possible without the Internet, which we’ve been enjoying since the early 90’s – in fact, in just 20 years we probably take it so much for granted now that it seems like it’s always been there (for the ‘young-uns’ this would certainly be true) and it’s hard to imagine now that we ever ‘functioned’ without it (although we managed to). The world changed and so did our perception of it.
So, taking into account the technological developments of the last 20-25 years or so, we could say this pair of Venus transits can be seen as signifying ‘The Internet Age’ or ‘The Information Age’ or more broadly – The Digital Age, and it has already been called that. Given the extent of social media and how quickly it has grown, might this also turn out to be the Age of Global Socialization? A time when borders/boundaries become less defined, less important, and blurry, and more people begin to realize that there is more that unites us in a common experience than divides us?
Astrologically, the planet Venus symbolizes love, beauty, pleasure, comfort, relaxation and enjoyment, and rules all forms of the arts. It is also indicative of one’s value system and the Venus function is an important socializing factor – it’s how you make social contacts and friends. This is more of a one-to-one social interaction with others which prompts us to reach out and connect in a loving (Venus as natural ruler of the 7th house on a chart), or at least harmonious, way. It’s a nice bit of synchronicity that on Facebook, ‘friends’ was the term decided upon for the contacts you make online; conversely, ‘de-friending’ someone makes a statement of its own.
There’s an excellent article that appeared on the Whiskey and Gunpowder website a while back entitled “Why Facebook Works, and Democracy Does Not” (slightly misleading title – substitute “Government” for “Democracy”). In it Jeffrey Tucker says that part of the reason for Facebook’s success is that it is “based on the principle of free association” and a “mutually satisfying” arrangement between individuals (again, Venus – the principle of satisfaction in a social context).
Although Facebook bills itself as “social entertainment,” I think we all know it’s a lot more than that – or potentially can be – no matter how many pictures of cute ‘kittehs’ you put up on your page or videos you share… for example, the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011. Which should also tell you why governments and certain moneyed interests are working so hard to control the Internet, its content, and social media in general… and why those kinds of controls must be opposed by all of us.
How will social media evolve in the years ahead? What, if anything, will replace Facebook? Yes, it may be easy to scoff at the idea of Facebook or Twitter being a major force in the ongoing evolution of humanity but probably only because if we’ve been on these sites long enough, we’ve become familiar with the quantity/quality and relative nature of the content that’s posted. How will content change (if at all) – i.e., what kinds of things will people be talking about online in 40-50 years or at the time of the next Transit of Venus? What will people in 2117 be talking about on whatever social platforms still exist then online and how will they characterize this current time period we’re now living in?
How much change will we see over the next 20 years? As important as the technological advances have been over the last 20 and the sea change they’ve brought to the world, I think the social connection component may actually be the more important of the two. We’ll see…
To sum up, the significance of this Venus transit seems to be that this is a window of opportunity for global social consciousness and awareness to evolve for once as rapidly as our technology does.
With Nights on Venus, my modest musical endeavor (MME), I’ve seen the reach of my music and this blog extend far beyond what I could have expected. The map below shows all the countries in the world where NoV has fans/friends/listeners/readers since Oct., 2010. I see this and it kind of blows my mind (and thank you for continuing to tune in). This would not have been possible even 20 years ago – without selling millions of albums and touring – much less earlier (I can also take note of fun facts like… that I have a number of fans/friends in Indonesia and yet not one in Wyoming which is just ‘next door’).
It is a small world after all and getting smaller all the time… or maybe it’s just becoming closer and more connected. Despite the obvious dangers that still exist in the world, might this be the beginnings of a more ‘friendly’ world even with those halfway around the globe you haven’t met and may never meet in person… and a more harmonious one as well?
What if the things we take for granted now as ‘entertainment’ – a preoccupation of the previous century right through current day – turn out to be much more than just mere entertainment?
Be sociable and share!
“In 4 the Evening” is the second album from Nights on Venus and is now available as a digital download on CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon.mp3, Bandcamp, and other fine online retailers. CDs will be available on or around June 7th.