I missed the transit of Venus this morning – it was 4.45 am, never my best time of day, and also a bit cloudy here in London; they had a better view of it up in the Shetland Islands, so I’ve heard. Oh well, the next one’s in 2117 – if there’s some sort of miraculous medical breakthrough sometime before mid-century, many of us might even be around to see it then.
When she isn’t putting on this kind of rare performance, I’ve found the best time to see Venus is normally just after sunset, in her guise as the Evening Star. There was a great time for planet-watchers back in March this year, when Venus and Jupiter appeared close together in the sky like twin beacons, and as luck would have it, this coincided with a series of fine, cloudless evenings in my part of the world. The two were watched over from high in the eastern sky by Mars, and occasionally joined in their stately dance by the crescent Moon – a magical and uplifting sight.
It seems overwhelmingly likely that humans will walk on Mars long before we attempt to land on the cloud-obscured, acidic, hellishly hot and pressurised surface of our sister world. Indeed, before 2117 it’s probable that some of us will have already been for a stroll across the Martian boulder fields, in our shiny helmets and cleverly designed survival suits. But over the next millennium or so, I think humans will eventually make it to Venus as well, and perhaps consider terraforming the place. One day, what Carl Sagan once described as a “planetary inferno” might even become an Eden of lakes and tropical greenery, somewhat as it was depicted in early 20th century science fiction, a lush and comfortable home from home for future Venusians.