Nearly 40 students, faculty, staff and area residents gathered in front of the Gelsi-Young parking lot on June 5 to watch the planet Venus pass in front of the sun, commonly called a "Transit of Venus." The event dazzled and amazed the group of die-hard eastern Connecticut sky enthusiasts.
"Transits of Venus are extremely rare celestial events," said Russell Sampson, associate professor of physical science and assistant director of Eastern's Robert Wickware Planetarium. "For the few hours during a transit, Venus appears as a silhouette against the brilliant disk of the sun. The orbits of Earth and Venus allow these events to occur in pairs separated by eight years. However, those eight-year pairs occur 105.5 or 121.5 years apart! The first of this most recent pairing occurred on June 8, 2004. Prior to the 2004 transit, you would have to go back in time to 1874 and 1882 to see another pair of Venus transits. The next transit of Venus occurs on Dec. 10, 2117."
Sampson and Zoran Pazameta, associate professor of physical science, provided Eastern solar telescopes for viewers to get the best views of the transit. Sampson said some visitors even put their cell phone cameras up to the eyepiece of the telescopes and successfully captured digital souvenirs.