Venus

Transit of Venus, June 4, 2012Yes, it's rare and won't happen again until 2117. Yes, it's a cool way to help kids visualize the solar system's clockwork. But be prepared to be underwhelmed as Venus passes between the earth and the sun Tuesday afternoon.

Here's all we'll see in Los Angeles assuming clear skies. Grab a preview calculated for your neighborhood at the amazing scientific search engine Wolfram Alpha. Little black blip crawls across big ball of fire in sky? Not exactly a show-stopper, and not as big a deal as it was back in the day.

I admit it. I'm jaded. This year's transit seems as overrated as Facebook's IPO compared to Venus' treks of 1761 and 1769 which gave scientists their first opportunity to measure earth's distance from the sun, or the transit of 1883 when urchin kids burned out their retinas staring bare-eyed (or through a chunk of smoked glass) at the phenom. Still, the event inspired John Philip Sousa to whip up the snazzy Transit of Venus March...

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

...but no Snoop Dogg single at iTunes this time around.

Going gaga over Venus' transit seems so retro. Since the launch of Mariner 2 in 1962, Earthlings have sent scores of probes to Venus, snapping color close-ups and scoping out the hot little planet's atmosphere, ionosphere, magnetic field and topography. Today, we can zoom around the deadliest planet in our 'hood with virtual precision, a far cry from pinhole eclipse viewers.

Why get so worked up about a minuscule spot when we're so totally hip to the scads of volcanoes on Venus (more than any other planet in the solar system), its excruciatingly tiresome days (each one 243 Earth days long) and blistering surface temps (870° fahrenheit, hot as an electric oven during a self-cleaning cycle)?

The media hype is so over the top for a planetary sneak peek glimpsed from 26,854,932 miles away. It's nice to reminisce over mankind's early astronomical achievements, but it's the difference between catching a glimpse of Kim Kardashian at The Grove and probing the wonders of her latest CT scan.

Slow news day.