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  The Transit of Venus   

Written by Sten Odenwald; reprinted with permission.

As the countdown for the Transit of Venus continues, and many of us are counting down for the emergence of the east coast Brood-X cicadas, I was curious how often we get cicadas during a transit of Venus....hey, as an astronomer my job is to take a bigger look at 'cosmic' events!

Inquiring minds need to know...

The attached spreadsheet shows how I did it...not hard to do really, thanks to Fred Espenak's ephemeris of the last 52 transits. So, you list the ones that happened only in May-June, and do the math.

The answer is:

797 AD on May 22 - The Big News Event of the day was the death of Constantine V's son Leo in March:

"While the court was enjoying a stay at the hot springs at Prousa (Brusa) in October 796, the news arrived that Theodote had given birth to a son, presumably prematurely (the baby, called Leo, died in the following May) and Leo rushed to his wife's side. This gave Irene -- doubtless concerned for her own position at the birth of Constantine V's son and heir -- the opportunity to plot against him in his absence: 'his mother addressed the commanders of the tagmata and beguiled them by means of gifts and promises with a view to deposing her son and becoming sole ruler herself; some of them she coaxed personally, others through the men of her household, and she drew everyone to her side and was waiting to find the proper moment.'[[59]] Irene may have used the questionable legitimacy of her grandson to raise concerns about the succession. But Constantine V does not seem to have perceived any danger in his position though it was already being seriously undermined. When he led a campaign against the Arabs in March 797, he was accompanied by Stauracius and other friends of his mother. These, afraid of the psychological value of a victory to Constantine V at this juncture, bribed scouts to report that the Arabs had retreated, and to his chagrin the emperor returned empty-handed."



921 BC on May 23. - The Big News Event of the day was Solomon's recent death, and the division of Israel into Judah and Israel.

Sten Odenwald can be reached at

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