Lackluster Viewing of Venus Transit Attracts a Crowd
A crowd of disappointed stargazers filled Darden Towe Park in Albemarle County Tuesday night. Low hanging clouds obstructed their view of Venus passing over the sun, but bad weather didn't get in the way of the fun.
"I tell you, it was just an incredible sight to see that. I saw it right at sunrise, so you could see the sun was a big ball of red with a dark black spot on it," said Larry Saunders with the Charlottesville Astronomy Society.
Saunders is talking about the last time he watched the planet Venus pass over the sun back in 2004. Tuesday night, Saunders and the dozens of other people stationed in the park weren't as lucky. Cloudy skies obstructed their view, and that means a number of special solar viewing telescopes never got used.
Astronomers with the University of Virginia attached solar filters to the telescopes and handed out solar glasses so people could look at the sun safely.
"It's really important to know that you can't look at the sun through a telescope unless you have proper solar filters," UVA astronomy professor Edward Murphy said.
Murphy still used the event to educate people about the skies. He says Venus only passes the sun twice each century, meaning this won't happen again until 2117. The event attracted astronomers both old and young.
"I had all the pictures of the planets and some pictures of some galaxies," said 5-year-old Emmett Lach.
Murphy says any opportunity to get people talking about what lies beyond Earth is still worthwhile, even if the skies themselves weren't cooperating.
"It's a way to explore the universe, to find the answers to things we don't know about, and it's really exciting to be able to do that kind of exploration," said Murphy.
Click here for more pictures and video of the Venus transit.
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Derick Waller joined the NBC 29 news team in August, 2010. Prior to this, Derick graduated with degrees in both broadcast journalism and political science from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story