Venus’ passage on 6/6/2012 via Daily Yomiuri

Today’s heads-up on the upcoming celestial event, fair weather permitting…

“The big event for June occurs over the next two days depending on where you are located on Earth. On June 5 and 6, a transit of Venus will occur where Venus will cross in front of the sun as seen from Earth. It will look like a small black dot slowly moving across the sun’s face. Hope for clear skies because the next Venus transit won’t be seen on Earth until December 2117.” — Astronomy Today’s SkyGuide

“….for a few hours on June 6, Venus will pass in front of the sun, another rare event Japan won’t see again until 2117….

“(Usually) you won’t get many chances to use eclipse glasses in your life. But because we get two occasions to use them within the coming weeks, it’s probably worthwhile buying a pair,” said an official at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

However, experts warn the glasses must be used properly to avoid eye damage. There were 15 cases reported of eye damage from the July 2009 eclipse. In the most serious case, one person was left with a black spot in his field of vision.

It’s important, experts say, to use glasses specifically designed for eclipses, and not to rely on sunglasses or makeshift devices like black plastic bags that may result in permanent eye damage or even blindness.

Many makers and traders sell eclipse glasses, but prices range widely from a few hundred yen to about ¥2,000, although low prices don’t necessarily correlate with poor safety, said Hidehiko Agata, a manager at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. The most important thing is to know how to use the glasses correctly.

“Even if you have safe eclipse glasses, you could damage your eyes if you use them in the wrong way,” Agata said. “Don’t look at the sun for a long time. Keep using eclipse glasses even if your eyes get used to the sun or even when the sun is behind a cloud.”– Tokyo to be treated to rare annular eclipse, Venus transit (May 4, 2012 Japan Times)

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Next, a great deal may be learnt about the event from the BBC news article reblogged in excerpt below:

Venus to put on Sun spectacular (4 June 2012, BBC News) By Jonathan Amos

As part of Horizon’s Transit of Venus programme, science presenter Liz Bonnin explains what the transit of Venus is and why it is such a rare event

The more than six-and-a-half-hour transit, which starts just after 22:00 GMT (23:00 BST) on Tuesday is a very rare astronomical phenomenon that will not be witnessed again until 2117.

Observers will position themselves in northwest America, the Pacific, and East Asia to catch the whole event.

But some part of the spectacle will be visible across a much broader swathe of Earth’s surface, weather permitting.

Skywatchers in UK, for example, will catch the end of the transit at sunrise on Wednesday.

Venus will appear as a tiny black disc against our star, but no-one should look for it without the proper equipment.

Transit of Venus, 8 June 2004

Venus appears as a tiny black disc against our star

Looking directly at the Sun with the naked eye, or worse still through an open telescope or binoculars, can result in serious injury and even blindness.

It is recommended people attend an organised viewing event where the transit will be projected on to a screen; or they can visit one of the many institutional internet sites planning to stream pictures.

Venus transits occur four times in approximately 243 years; more precisely, they appear in pairs of events separated by about eight years and these pairs are separated by about 105 or 121 years.

The reason for the long intervals lies in the fact that the orbits of Venus and Earth do not lie in the same plane and a transit can only occur if both planets and the Sun are situated exactly on one line.

This has happened only seven times in the telescopic age: in 1631, 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882 and 2004.

Once the latest transit has passed, the next pair will not occur until 2117 and 2125. Most people alive today will probably be dead by then.

Transit times

The phenomenon has particular historical significance. The 17th- and 18th-Century transits were used by the astronomers of the day to work out fundamental facts about the Solar System.

Employing a method of triangulation (parallax), they were able to calculate the distance between the Earth and the Sun – the so-called astronomical unit (AU) – which we know today to be about 149.6 million km (or 93 million miles).

This allowed scientists to get their first real handle on the scale of things beyond Earth.

The first person to predict a transit of Venus – the 6 December, 1631, event – was Johannes Kepler, but he died before it occurred.

Jeremiah Horrocks, the young English astronomer, was probably the first to record the phenomenon when he and his friend, William Crabtree, made separate observations of the passage on 24 November, 1639.

By the time the transits of 1761 and 1769 came around, they had become major scientific events. Expeditions were despatched all over the globe to get the data necessary to calculate the AU.

One such expedition was undertaken by Captain James Cook, whose epic voyage in the Endeavour took in the “new lands” of New Zealand and Australia.

Timing of the transit

Transit times

Times for the start of the transit will ary by a few minutes depending on one’s location
The timings given here are calculated for a viewing position at the Earth’s centre
Venus is seen to first touch (1) the edge of the Sun’s disc at 22:09 GMT (23:09 BST)
It is completely visible on the disc (2) by 22:27 GMT (23:27 BST). The transit lasts over six hours
Come Wednesday by 04:31 GMT (05:31 BST), Venus is touching the disc’s far side (3)

At 04:49 GMT (05:49 BST), Venus has left the disc (4). The next transit is on 11 December 2117

Modern instrumentation now gives us very precise numbers on planetary positions and masses, as well as the distance between the Earth and the Sun. But to the early astronomers, just getting good approximate values represented a huge challenge.

This is not to say the 2012 Venus transit will be regarded as just a pretty show with no interest for scientists.

Planetary transits have key significance today because they represent one of the best methods for finding worlds orbiting distant stars.

Nasa’s Kepler telescope, for example, is identifying thousands of candidates by looking for the tell-tale dips in light that accompany a planet moving in front of its host sun.

These planets are too far away to ever be visited by spacecraft, but scientists can learn something about them from the way the background star’s light is affected as it passes through the planetary atmosphere.

And observing a transiting Venus, which has a known atmospheric composition, provides a kind of benchmark to support these far-flung investigations.

But Venus itself will come in for scrutiny. Scientists will be using the event to probe the middle layers of the Venusian atmosphere – its mesosphere.

They will be looking for a very thin arc of light, called the aureole, which can only be seen when Venus appears to just touch the edge of the Sun’s disc.

The brightness and thickness of the aureole depends on the density and temperature of the atmospheric layers above Venus’s cloud tops.

Observations of the aureole will be combined with data from Europe’s Venus Express spacecraft in orbit around the planet to provide information on high-altitude winds.

The Venusian atmosphere experiences super-rotation. That is – the whole atmosphere circles the planet in four Earth days, on a body that turns around just once in 243 Earth days.

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The Japanese Understanding of Venus 

The Japanese in ancient times were not as advanced as the Chinese, Indians or the Koreans in their knowledge of astronomy/astrology, and they imported heavily from those cultures (and possibly from other Silk Road and Central Asian exchanges) from around the 3rd c. onwards.  However, from the earliest known celestial objects to the Japanese included Venus, along with the Big and Little Dippers, Pole Star and Orion. There is evidence that from 807AD, a seven day week with names related to the “planets” (i.e. including Venus) had found its way to Japan (see Steve Renshaw’s and Saori Ihara’s The Lunar Calendar in Japan).

However, since the practice of mortuary burial of the cult item of bronze mirrors with the elite dead began during the Yayoi period, and bronze mirrors took on a huge symbolism for the Japanese as evidenced by the phenomenal numbers of mirror artefacts excavated from Kofun tombs, the priestess Venus/Inanna/Isis-mirror symbolism of the West likely entered Japan much earlier than the 10th century. As the bronze mirror is also linked in local mythology with the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu, it is likely that the same associations of Venus goddess that are linked to the burial of mirrors with the worship of a solar goddess(found in Near Eastern and European Mirror of Isis-Ishtar-Inanna-Venus icons) had been transmitted from Western or Central Asia via Han China (the northern proto-European or Afanasevo culture or Scythian-Pazyryk-pre-Mauryan-Sarmatian culture are thought to have brought the bronze technology that were the proto-types of the Han mirrors at Anyang that became popular cult items with the Xiongnu, Koreans and Japanese). Coincidence or not, the pre-Mauryan and Scythian-Sarmatian rattle-mirrors look remarkably identical to the aerial design and structure of the iconic and distinctive Kofun Period key-hole tombs.

This next excerpt taken from the paper Stellar Iconology and Astronomical Folklore in Japan presented by the International Planetarium Society, shows the superstitious and oracular significance of the sighting of Venus in ancient Japan:

“Venus Occulted by the Moon

Strange as it may sound to the Western astrologers, both Venus and the general of army are classified into the element Kin (gold or metal) in the Chinese theory of yin-yang and five elements. Therefore On’myoji – ancient Japanese astrologers – predicted that there would be some change in the general or the army when they observed something unusual happening to Venus. If Venus was occulted by the Moon, for instance, the general had to stay in his house on On’myoji’s advice in order to avoid a misfortune or accident.

Abe-no-Yasuchika, a famous twelfth-century On’myoji, observed an occultation of Venus by the Moon on August 26th, 1155, and delineated it to suggest the death of Toba, the emperor’s father at the moment. This sounds strange and arouses our curiosity because On’myoji regarded Venus as the significator of the general, and Jupiter as the emperor. Why did Yasuchika predict the death of Toba? Kuniji Saito, an astronomer at the Tokyo Observatory, calculated the planetary positions and says the occultation started at 2:59 a.m. and Venus reappeared at 3:42 a.m. JST. If we erect a chart for the middle time of the occultation, like William Lilly did when judging eclipse charts, we can conjecture Yasuchika’s reasoning.

Venus is the ruler of the tenth house of the power. At that time, Go-Shirakawa had taken the throne in succession to Toba. However, Toba replaced emperors and also regents as the supreme political figures at the central government, full utilizing and expanding upon the private base of power for the imperial house – Toba exercised his power at will yet. So I suspect that Yasuchika considered Venus as the accidental significator of Toba and its occultation as his death. Actually Toba died in July 1156.

Chart 2 (Dec. 31, 739 Noon LMT 130E30 33N30)

Chart 2 confirms Hirotsugu’s observation – Venus is in the eighth house (south-west sky) and 4 degrees from Antares (Scorpio 22°03′) the main star of Shin. The emperor’s own men and the military in those days are represented by the eleventh house and its ruler. The ruler of the eleventh Saturn is in its detriment and retrograde in motion but it also symbolizes the emperor, as Saturn rules both tenth and eleventh. The Moon is translating the light of Mars, the natural significator of uprising, to Jupiter that On’myoji considered as the significator of the emperor. On the other hand, the accidental significator of the emperor Saturn is in mutual reception with the Sun, meaning an escape. If I were Hirotsugu, I would not predict the assassination of the emperor. These make me think that Hirotsugu mentioned the daylight Venus to justify his proposal. And it is interesting to note that Mercury conjuncts Altair (Capricorn 14°16′), as Ebertin says, “If Mercury and Moon are posited here, this will make people as bold as brass and foolhardy, in order to assert themselves.”

One of the reasons that On’myoji observed the sky was to compensate errors in their ephemeris. They were able to calculate the planetary positions precisely,

In 740 AD, Fujiwara-no-Hirotsugu impeached the brain trust of the Emperor for their poor administration, and proposed to discharge them. The central government rejected his proposal, then Hirotsugu rebelled against the Emperor and the central government. The rebel army was suppressed by the Emperor, and Hirotsugu was killed in the battle two months after his uprising. Although Hirotsugu could not get an important position in the government, he was well-educated and conversant with astrology. In his letter to the central government he says, “On December 31st, 739, Venus appeared in Shin (the lunar mansion including Antares), glaring in the south-west sky at the noon.” Therefore he thought the Emperor would be assassinated by the brain trust. In reality, however, it was Hirotsugu who rebelled against the Emperor

Being an inferior planet, Venus can never be more than 48 degrees from the Sun, and it is brightest, magnitude -4.8, when its elongation is 40 degrees. Its brightness is one thousandth that of a full moon, but it is 100 times brighter than first magnitude fixed stars like Spica and Regulus, and then Venus sometimes can be seen in the daytime. On’myoji called the phenomenon Taihaku-chu-ken (Venus-daytime-visible) and considered it as an omen of coup d’etat. It is because that the ancient Chinese and Japanese said a planet ‘competing in brightness’ with the Sun when it was seen in the daytime, and that they considered the Sun as the lord and the inferior planets as chamberlains, and besides Venus was the significator of the general. But Chinese texts say it is a fortunate sign if the Moon is seen at the same time: this is called san-kou (three lights) – their theory is rather complex”.”

Following the spread of Buddhism, Venus is associated with Seishi Bodhisattva who appears mostly in paintings and sculptures of the popular grouping known as the Amida Sanzon 阿弥陀三尊 (lit. = Amida Triad). In this Amida Triad, the Amida Buddha is seated in the center, attended by Seishi to the right (representing wisdom) and Kannon to the left (representing compassion). Even today, the Pure Land sects of Japan are among the nation’s largest and most popular. (Source:  Seishi Bosatsu: Japanese Buddhist Statuary)

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Early studies and astronomical observations by ancient civilizations

Venus was known to ancient civilizations both as the “morning star” and as the “evening star”, because these two sightings of Venus were believed to be two separate objects.

Venus is described in Babylonian cuneiformic texts such as the Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa, dated 1581 BC ( from 1600 BC.), which shows that the Babylonians understood the two were a single object. The Venus tablet which records the observations of Babylonian astrologers, refers to Venus as Nin-dar-an-na, or “bright queen of the sky”.

The Babylonians named the planet Ishtar (equivalent of the Sumerian Inanna), the personification of womanhood, and goddess of love. She had a dual role as a goddess of war, thereby representing a deity that presided over birth and death.

Somewhat less accurate in their astronomy, the Ancient Egyptians believed Venus to be two separate bodies and knew the morning star as Tioumoutiri and the evening star as Ouaiti.  Hailing from the same tradition, similarly believing Venus to be two bodies, the Ancient Greeks called the morning star Φωσφόρος, Phosphoros (Latinized Phosphorus), the “Bringer of Light” or Ἐωσφόρος, Eosphoros (Latinized Eosphorus), the “Bringer of Dawn”. The evening star they called Hesperos (Latinized Hesperus) (Ἓσπερος, the “star of the evening”).

By Hellenistic times however, the ancient Greeks realized the two were the same planet, which they named after their goddess of love, Aphrodite (Phoenician Astarte).

The Greeks thought of the two as separate stars, Phosphorus and Hesperus, until the time of Pythagoras in the sixth century BC.  The Romans designated the morning aspect of Venus as Lucifer, literally “Light-Bringer”, and the evening aspect as Vesper.

During the 4th century BC at the time of Aristotle existed a belief that a comet had once joined the solar system as a planet. This theory was later expanded upon by Velikovsky, who believed the story to be a reference to the appearance of Venus.

The Romans, who derived much of their religious pantheon from the Greek tradition and the Near East, named the planet Venus after their goddess of love. Pliny the Elder (Natural History, ii,37) identified the planet Venus with Isis.

Venus on seashell, from the Casa di Venus, Pompei. Before 79 AD.

The planet Venus in Persian/Iranian mythology, usually corresponds to the goddess Anahita. In some parts of Pahlavi literature the deities Aredvi Sura and Anahita are regarded as separate entities, the first one as a personification of the mythical river and the latter as a goddess of fertility which is associated with the planet Venus. As the goddess Aredvi Sura Anahita—and simply called Anahita as well—both deities are unified in other descriptions, e. g. in the Greater Bundahishn, and are represented by the planet.  The Persian name of the planet today is “Nahid” which derives from Anahita and later in history from the Pahlavi language Anahid.

The transit of Venus was first observed in 1032 by the Persian astronomer Avicenna, who concluded Venus is closer to the Earth than the Sun, and who established Venus was, at least sometimes, below the Sun.

In the 12th century, the Andalusian astronomer Ibn Bajjah observed “two planets as black spots on the face of the Sun”, which were later identified as the transits of Venus and Mercury by the Maragha astronomer Qotb al-Din Shirazi in the 13th century.

When the Italian physicist Galileo Galilei first observed the planet in the early 17th century, he found it showed phases like the Moon, varying from crescent to gibbous to full and vice versa, and he proved that Venus orbits the Sun and not the Earth(as in the diagram below).

When Venus is furthest from the Sun in the sky, it shows a half-lit phase, and when it is closest to the Sun in the sky, it shows as a crescent or full phase. This could be possible only if Venus orbited the Sun, and this was among the first observations to clearly contradict the Ptolemaic geocentric model that the Solar System was concentric and centered on the Earth.

If the European astronomical understanding of Venus appears to have come rather late, the Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland, presents possible evidence that the ancients in Europe knew a lot more about Venus’ movements across the skies as astonishingly early as 5,000 years ago. According to Gillies MacBain,

“If Dowth is the first mound, watching the 18.6 year cycle of the eclipses – and Knowth is the second, watching the 19 years coincidence of sun and moon, what else is there to track? There is the 8 year cycle of the planet Venus. The planet Venus goes around the sun – as seen from the earth which is also moving – in 584 days. During this cycle it appears once as the morning star, and once as the evening star. By another astronomical coincidence, five of these Venus cycles make nearly the same number of days as there are in eight years, – in fact after eight years Venus comes back ahead of the sun, just 2.5 days early.

Now I want you to imagine a coming together of the winter sun, the new moon, and the planet Venus. The calendar maker has to decide what day to chose for day one. We chose January 1st and anno domini 1 (1 A.D.) as our starting points. But the winter solstice is a natural starting point for the sun; for the moon the new or darkened moon; and for Venus the inferior conjunction when it passes across the face of the sun and can be visible as a black dot under certain conditions.

I am saying that Newgrange may be designed to look out for a day which is day one of the suns year, day one of the moon’s nineteen year cycle and day one of the planet Venus’ eight year cycle. The lowest common denominator of the one year sun cycle, nineteen year moon coincidence and eight year Venus coincidence is 1 x 19 x 8 = 152. 152 fits Newgrange in the following way: Newgrange has 97 kerb stones. Make the entrance stone K1 and the highly decorated stone K52 represent the days of triple conjunction. There are 95 kerb stones remaining. Each kerb stone = one 584 day cycle of Venus. Thus each five stones = 8 years. Thus the stones make 19 x 8 years or 152 years. This represents a “great year” of sun, moon, and Venus.

To me this is the meaning of the regular phrase in mythology ‘three fifties plus two’. It is the sun/ moon/ Venus cycle. The theory that I am putting forward assumes a knowledge of the movements of the sun, moon, and Venus, on the part of the passage mound builders.

So the most conservative archaeologists now accept the alignment of Newgrange with the midwinter sun. All of the circumstantial evidence points to an association of the Boyne valley with the moon after which it is named (Boyne = cow. The moon was known as the white cow). And the third person of this neolithic trinity is the planet Venus.

At Newgrange the folk tradition of county Meath was that the morning star (Venus) shone into Newgrange once in every eight years. It takes Venus five cycles, as we saw, to come back into line with the solar year. That is why Venus is represented as a five pointed star. Of course, what we are celebrating is not just any old star, but the morning star which announces the dawn” — Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, by Gillies MacBain

The planet Venus was important to the Maya civilization, who developed a religious calendar based in part upon its motions, and held the motions of Venus to determine the propitious time for events such as war. They named it Noh Ek’, the Great Star, and Xux Ek’, the Wasp Star. The Maya were aware of the planet’s synodic period, and could compute it to within a hundredth part of a day.

The Governor’s Palace at Uxmal, the Mayan city in Yucatán, Mexico, is said to be aligned towards a southerly rising of Venus which occurs once every eight years. Not only does the palace point towards the rising of Venus, it is also covered in glyphs which stand for Venus and Mayan zodiacal constellations. — Archaeoastronomy

The Pre-Columbian Mayan Dresden Codex, which calculates Venus appearances. In Mayan myth, the Venus Dog Lord is the companion of the sun. (Corroborated by the astronomical fact and observations that Venus is always close to the sun in the sky, rising not long before sunrise as morning star or after sunset as evening star). In the Classical period (250-900 AD), Venus was associated with Hun Ahaw, who guided his twin Yax Balam, the sun, through the Underworld.  Hun Ahaw later became Hunaphu in the Hero Twins myth cycle in the post-Conquest. These myths have been interpreted as observations or sightings of Venus from its heliacal risings as morning star, through beneath the night time horizon, to rise again as evening star. [See “The Chinkultic disk” for visuals.] — Read more at “Spirituality, the Mayan Calendar and You

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Cultural Symbolism

As one of the brightest objects in the sky, Venus has been known since prehistoric times and as such has gained an entrenched position in human culture.

Beyond astronomical observations, Venus is iconic in the sense that it is the only planet in the Solar System that is named after a female figure. (Three dwarf planets – Ceres, Eris and Haumea – along with many of the first discovered asteroids and a number of moons (such as the Galilean moons) also have feminine names. Earth and its moon also have feminine names in many languages—Gaia/Terra, Selene/Luna—but the female mythological figures who personified them were named after them, not the other way around.)

♀If this astronomical symbol for Venus looks familiar, that’s because it is. It’s the same one as that used in biology for the female sex: a circle with a small cross beneath.  Venus symbolizes femininity. In Western alchemy stood for the metal copper. Polished copper has been used for mirrors from antiquity, and the symbol for Venus has sometimes been understood to stand for the mirror of the goddess, hence, early the Japanese practice of burying their dead with mirrors between the Yayoi to Kofun periods may have been connected to the spread of beliefs in their solar goddess, Amaterasu. Since Amaterasu in the myth is trapped in the rock grotto and all the deities are concerned over the resulting loss of the sun, the sun goddess’ association with the Underworld is also clear.

Sources & References:

Kokubu, H. Shuseh Venus in Japanese Astrology Q.H.P.

Stellar Iconology and Astronomical Folklore in Japan by Takao Ibaraki International Planetarium Society (IPS) F.Ver_JpStar(E) July 14,1996 Conferences 1996 Osaka

VENUS & A MAGNETIC CHANGE compiled by Dee Finney

28 Moon Stations by Onmark productions

Venus mythology (Wikipedia)

Haynes, Kim On The Presence Of Non-Chinese At Anyang, Sino-Platonic Papers  | No. 132, 4-2004 | Kim Haynes

Pre-Mauryan “Rattle-Mirrors” With Artistic Designs from Scythian Burial Mounds of the Altai Region in the Light of Sanskrit Sources

Noble, Vicki  The Double Goddess: Women Sharing Power pps 124~144. On the shaman priestess cults of the Pazyryk culture with the assemblage of mirrors, combs, beads, headdresses, that spread by way of the Silk Road

Further reading:

Transit Venus 2012 … The Event  On Velikovsky’s theories about converging ancient cosmologies and images, including the Babylonian “torch-star” Venus and “bearded star” Venus, the Mexican “smoking star” Venus, the Peruvian “long-haired” star Venus, the Egyptian Great Star “scattering its flame in fire” and the widespread imagery of Venus as a flaming serpent or dragon in the sky. And he came to the conclusion that in both the astronomical traditions of the Old World and the New, ancient stargazers regarded Venus with awe and terror, carefully observing its risings and settings, and claiming the planet to be the cause of world-ending catastrophe. He also noted that Saul, David and Solomon, all ruled for forty years, a full Venusian cycle.