This really is an eventful year for the Queen. Not just her Diamond Jubilee. Not just the Olympic Games, at which England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will doubtless secure gold medals by the boatload in her honour. Not just the centenary of Alan Turing's birth. And not just the chance to shake hands with Martin McGuinness!
If all this were not sufficient, the planet Venus has chosen to transit the Sun.
A favoured monarch indeed! And a favoured country, to get no less than three long-reigning and influential queens: Elizabeth 1, Victoria and now Elizabeth 11. Not that I'm putting the kings down. They've generally been a set of characters too, including the Duchy Original who is still waiting in the wings, and who knows, may never get a crack at the Top Job till he's drawing his pension. (Hmmm. I think I'll do a post soon about what I think of the Royal Family as an institution!)
Back to the planet Venus. Did you see the transit? Probably not, at least not directly. Nor did I. It was too cloudy, and most of it happened when it was night-time in the UK. But I found a way to check on the progress of the event by other means. I kept looking at Google Sky Map, which is an Android app you can use offline. It gives you a pretty good maplike view of the sky, which of course changes at short intervals as things move around. A view you can zoom into, and scroll about in, and see what's going on. Supernovas, worlds colliding, meteor strikes, exploding moons, alien battlefleets, its all there, constantly updated.
So, wielding my Sony tablet, I looked at what was happening late in the evening on 5 June, and behold, I saw this:
Then I looked again on the morning of 6 June, and lo, I saw this:
The clue that time has elapsed is in the position of the constellation Taurus relative to the Sun, especially the star Aldebaran. Notice how the names of Venus and the Sun are very close together, with the name of Venus above the Sun's in the first shot, and below it in the second, revealing that it had moved across the Sun's disc.
Now I think you'll grant that this was a safe and convenient way to 'observe' the transit, and what's more I've got two souvenir photos, taken with the little Leica off the screen of the tablet!
What nobody seemed to notice was that Mercury, Venus and Jupiter were all rather adjacent in the sky. My astrology is a bit rusty, but I believe that could auger well. Another good omen?
I'm sure it's even better in the system used in Chinese Astrology. I was born in 1952, which makes me a Water Dragon. Sixty years on, it is again the year for Water Dragons. I don't want to tempt the gods, of course I don't, but this surely ought to be a amazingly lucky year for me!
Any day now. For that amazing luck, I mean...