Across the world, observers looked to the skies for a sight likely to never be seen again in their lifetime. For nearly seven hours, viewers on parts of all seven continents could see the Venus transit.
Here in Naperville, the top of Rotary Hill was crowded with observers hoping to catch a glimpse of the planet as it appeared.
“What we will be seeing is the planet Venus transiting, or moving, over the sun,” said Steve Miller, Former President of the Naperville Astronomical Association (NAA.)
“Venus appears to be moving across the sun even though it won’t be touching the sun at all,” said 8-year-old Noah. “It’s kind of like an eclipse but it’s not covering the whole sun.”
Members of the NAA brought out their telescopes to view the transit. But since they needed to look directly at the sun, they needed a safe way to view Venus.
“Most of the telescopes that you’ll see here will have a solar filter on the front of it, so that’s how they can stare at it directly,” said Miller. “The solar filter will block out the vast majority of the sunlight so you can see it without damaging the eye. We do have a couple of scopes doing what I call the indirect method. They are doing a projection method so they will still go through a telescope but it is projected on a screen, where everybody can look at it safely.”
NAA members passed out special solar glasses and allowed residents of all ages to take a peek at the phenomenon through their telescopes.
“It’s a very, very tiny spec even though Venus is closer to us than it is the sun,” said Silviu, Naperville resident.
A transit of Venus is very rare. It happens in pairs separated by more than 100 years. The first in this century was back in June of 2004.
“It’s a once in a lifetime event here,” said Miller. “The next time it will happen will be the year 2117, most of us will not be around by then.”
“It’s really cool to be able to see this, to witness this,” said Noah. “If I ever have kids it’ll be really cool to say I got to see the transit of Venus.”
The first recorded Venus transit was in 1639 by Jeremiah Horrocks. His observations helped him estimate the size of the planet and how far away it is from earth.
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