by Wiley

What’s your favorite childhood toy?

Mine’s the Transit of Venus Care Bear.

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More elusive than the furtive Yeti of the Great White North, more wanderlust-y than Nessie of the Scottish lochs, the Transit of Venus Care Bear only appears once every 105 years. But don’t look directly at him! The Care Bear Stare’s* so bright that you gotta wear shades.

Last summer, Walt taught an astronomy class. This sparked (what I think will be) a lifetime interest in star-gazing. When we’re outside, his neck cranes upwards as soon as darkness descends. He looks for familiar constellations and contemplates the wonders of the universe, as I glance upwards occasionally while also keeping an eye out for oncoming cars. This is a good metaphor for our relationship.

This Tuesday marked the transit of Venus, a once-in-a-lifetime (twice, if you’re a super ager) occurrence where Venus travels across the sun, Earth’s closest star. (It’s flabbergasting to consider that Venus is 3.5x closer to our planet than Earth is to the sun!)

People all over the world set up special equipment or donned cardboard glasses to see the spectacle, including at the Stanford Student Observatory where astro enthusiasts brought telescopes and projection solar sun spotters.  (Walt on his Care Bear-ish pic: “This has got to be the best photo of a concrete floor I’ve ever taken.”)

Here are some photos Walt took during the viewing:

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I wasn’t able to make it up to the observatory in time, so Walt set up his astronomical binoculars for me in the flatlands of Menlo Park during the last hours of the transit. Here he is projecting the solar image onto a lens cap he’d crafted out of a Fat Tire container. (“Hey kids! If you want to make a binocular cover, just grab the closest beer cans and…” Just kidding. :))

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Pretty extraordinary!

By the way, my second favorite childhood toy is Teddy Ruxpin.

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*If the Care Bear references didn’t make sense to you, you probably weren’t an American child growing up in the 80s. Here’s a writeup that might help, authored by some of the greatest literary minds in the world.

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