Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain), born in 1835, a year in which the famed Comet Halley made a once every 76-year re-appearance in our skies, once remarked that he had come in with the comet, and would go out with it. A hundred years of improvement in health care and life expectancy later, children born this year may be able to say that they had come in with a transit and will go out with one. On June 5, 2012, for the last time in 105 years, until December of 2117, the planet Venus will pass directly between Earth and the Sun, in an event called a transit. Here in Colorado, the Sun will set with Venus still silhouetted against its surface. In this talk, two months before this event, I take the opportunity to spotlight the pivotal role that observations of the planet Venus—with special emphasis on those of previous transits—have played in the development of our current scientific world view. I will also describe the vital role that future explorations and study of the planet Venus, as a small part of a bigger picture sometimes called “Comparative Planetology,” must play in the future of scientific exploration.
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