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The last of the biggies . . .

June 2012: And the first of many for generations Y and Z.
bob_berman_2009
People often roll their eyes when old-timers reminisce. So although I’m not yet getting Social Security, I’m hesitant to share memories of the good old days.

But this month’s Venus transit forces me to. It’s the last of the biggies — the final super-rare sky spectacle I dreamt about when I was a kid.

As a 13-year-old living in my library’s astronomy section, I memorized all the named stars and their spectral classes. What I could not do was make time pass faster so I could experience the near-mythical future events those books promised. I trembled with excitement over the prospect of someday traveling to the 1970 total eclipse in Virginia Beach, and I drooled at the thought of gazing at the famous Halley’s Comet, scheduled to arrive in the far future of 1986. What would the world be like in that era after Orwell’s scary totalitarian novel, 1984?

The books promised a meteor storm in 1999. It was supposed to reprise the awesome 1966 event I’d read about, where Texans saw 60 meteors a second! Holy cow. That would be followed by the new millennium. I wondered if the world would celebrate on December 31, 1999, when all those digits would dramatically flip like a car odometer, or instead wait for the official start of the millennium in 2001. What kind of social wildness would unfold for a once-per-thousand-year happening?

After that, only two further extraordinary events dwelled in my adolescent brain: the transit of Venus in 2004 and its twin in 2012. Venus had not crossed the Sun’s face since 1882, so this transit-pair would be the rarest of all events during my lifetime.

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