Chambermaids Welcome Cousin Venus to Davidson’s Plaza on the Lawn

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Chambermaids welcome Venus: "Hey, girl, hey!"

[Update 6/8/12: Mario Belloni, ever the gentleman scholar, wants to make sure it’s clear that his physics colleagues Professor Dan Boye and Richardson Professor Larry Cain had a big hand in the observance of the Tranist of Venus à la Davidson. Kudos to all! —JSS]

The front-campus stage that is the Chambers Lawn plaza lit up with bright sunshine right on cue (whew!) last evening during Aphrodite’s mighty progress across the face of Helios.

Dodger and I had heard through the campus grapevine that Associate Professor of Physics Mario Belloni was setting up viewing scopes for the astronomically historic (thus liberal-artistically interdisciplinary!) transit o’ Venus. We quick hopped on our bike to go investigate. Hmm. Partly cloudy. Mario and Herman Brown Professor and Chair of Physics Wolfgang Christian were busy twiddling knobs on various apparati. Several telesopes were rigged with shadow screens. One was  rigged to an iPhone. Some of the scopes were motorized, and others required manual adjustment to keep the setting sun in their sights. One scope sported a high-tech filter that allowed direct viewing of not only ol’ Sol’s temporary beauty mark but also his hot red bed-head of solar flares.

But right now, it was cloudy, and in any case not yet time for this global event’s optimal viewing at N 35° 29′ 58.9268″/W 80° 50′ 53.6395″, Davidson, NC, 28036, USA, the World, the Solar System, the Galaxy, the Universe, et cetera ad infinitum. So Dodger and I toodled off. When we got back, the plaza was poppin’ with sunshine and happy Davidson Research Initiative students, professors and progeny and all manner of moms and dads, Davidson Outdoors students freshly finished with training for Summer Odyssey, at least one college fundraising type with family in tow, and sundry passersby. A festive mood permeated this pavillion of possibilities in perspective, permutations of which Mario explained patiently and passionately to us all as we visited each viewing station. The one with the red solar flares, predictably, was most popular, though I found myself drawn to the cardboard glasses with the black film lenses, of which there were several pair handy, reminiscent for me of a trip to Nags Head for a solar eclipse many moons ago.

An elucidatory time was had by all. Thanks, Mario!



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