This evening, Venus will slide into alignment between the orbits of the Earth and the Sun. To those watching from our planet, the transit of Venus will look like a small, dark disk, sliding across the sun. This will not happen again until the year 2117, when we will all be dead.
The New York Times called the impending Venus-transit "a last chance opportunity." The Wall Street Journal called it "a last chance glimpse." The Los Angeles Times said the event has "skywatchers abuzz, charged with a do-or-die feeling that this is something they absolutely need to see and study." The Washington Post said that after witnessing the transit of Venus we will "sink into history's pages" for 105 years, until she transits again.
We get it. This is a very big deal for anyone who studies the heavens. Rebecca Rosen has a great story over at TheAtlantic.com about British navigator Captain James Cook's race to observe the 1769 edition. But what about the rest of us? I think we're supposed to feel excited, or anxious that some unforeseeable event will make us miss tonight's celestial moment. But what happens if we do miss it? What happens if we get stuck at work or in an elevator or we throw our backs out during morning sex or rainclouds obstruct the sky? Will a divide form between us and the people who do see it, as if they have some kind of deeper connection (like hanging out with people who once took LSD together on a beautiful mountain when you've never tried LSD or climbed a mountain)?