The Buzz

Rare occurrences in space and time

May 22, 2004|By Frank D. Roylance

On June 8, the planet Venus will pass between the sun and the Earth, creating the rarest of all solar eclipses. As infrequently as this so-called Transit of Venus occurs - the last time was in 1882 - this time around it coincides with another periodic happening: the Brood X cicadas emerging from underground as they do every 17 years.

We're not sure there's cosmic significance to this, but here's a by-the-numbers look at these intersecting phenomena of Nature:

17

Number of years between emergences of the Brood X cicadas.

13

Number of years between emergences of 13-year cicadas.

221

Number of years between simultaneous emergences of 17-year and 13-year cicadas.

121 1/2

Number of years since the last Transit of Venus.

0

Number of people alive today who have witnessed a Transit of Venus.

1,207

Number of years since the last time Brood X cicadas were flying and breeding during a Transit of Venus -on May 22, AD 797.

(Thanks to astronomer Sten F. Odenwald of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt for that last calculation.)

- Frank D. Roylance

Any cicada thoughts of your own? Share them with The Buzz,. By mail: Cicada Buzz, c/o Features Dept., The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278. By e-mail: sun.features@ baltsun.com, with subject line of Cicada Buzz.

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