M A I N   N E W S

Venus dates Sun, teases gazers

New Delhi, June 8
Millions of Indians kept their date with the rare celestial event of the "Evening Star" Venus crossing the face of the Sun today, but rain and clouds played spoilsport in several parts of the country, denying perfect viewing.

Huge crowds of young and old thronged planetariums in cities across the country in the morning to get a view of the Earth's closest planet making its first touch with the Sun at 10.46 am.

"It was a beautiful sight and clearly visible," said Kerala School Class XII student S. Akhil, who visited Nehru Planetarium in the Capital to witness the rare celestial drama, close to the heart of Indian astronomers since the 17th century.

Venus looked like a small black dot against a giant, bright Sun when it began the transit at 11.06 am. Planetariums in the four metros and other cities had made special arrangements for the public to view the event by putting up solar-filter telescopes and binoculars.

An hour after the transit began, the weather suddenly changed in several states, bringing rain. The rain and a cloudy sky prevented enthusiastic sky gazers from getting a perfect view of the transit, but people waited anxiously for more than three hours to catch a glimpse of Venus.

Their patience finally paid off when the skies cleared in the evening to offer a perfect view of the third contact of Venus with the Sun at 4.37 pm. The transit ended at 4.50 pm when Venus was visible outside the solar disc.

Today's was the first Venus transit to be visible from India in 130 years. Another transit 122 years ago was not visible from India.

The event was also seen by many in India as one affecting their lives, but in the 17th century, Kamalkara, an astronomer in Varanasi, had scientifically talked about Venus transit and how it related to distance between planets.

In Bangalore, at least 10,000 people thronged the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) for a view of the transit. In addition to carrying out experiments at its observatory in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, the institute made special viewing arrangements for the public.

The images were also video-cast to the auditorium of the institute, where scientists remained busy answering questions from the public on the celestial phenomenon.

“The response of Bangaloreans to the celestial event has been absolutely amazing,” said IIA Professor R. C. Kapoor. There were intervals when the event was obscured because of clouds over the city.

Since direct viewing of the transit is harmful to the eyes, the planetariums attached graded solar filters (those certified by ophthalmologists as fit to use) to telescopes and binoculars kept for the public. Pinhole and multimedia video projections were also used to observe the transit. Planetariums arranged special viewing for students while student members of the amateur astronomers associations measured the distance between the Earth and the Sun using the timing of the transit.

In Rajasthan, dust-laden winds and rain dashed the hopes of hundreds of people trying to watch the rare celestial spectacle. A large number of people, assembled at Birla Planetarium and the Science Park in Shastri Nagar in state capital Jaipur to watch the event, had to return disappointed when clouds came riding the strong winds to blank out the sun.

The Department of Posts, meanwhile, issued a special cover of Rs 5 to mark the event.

In Madhya Pradesh too clouds disappointed sky gazers for a complete viewing of the Venus transit across the Sun in several parts of the state.

In West Bengal, hundreds of sky watchers captured the image in their minds using solar-filter sunglasses and binoculars. People celebrated whenever the Sun came out of the clouds.

In Mumbai, enthusiastic youngsters thronged Nehru Planetarium and the Nehru Science Centre and the Indian Planetary Society to experience the transit. The weather was kind in Mumbai. — UNI


Astronomers from USA record transit
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 8
A team of US astronomers from the University of North Dakota and Pennsylvania State University today observed the rare transit of Venus across the Sun from the US Embassy compound here.

Since the event was not fully visible from the US, the astronomers travelled to India, where the whole transit was visible. The expedition had received funding from the University of North Dakota Discretionary Research Fund.

The embassy supported the expedition by providing a site for the telescopes in the Embassy Housing Compound in Chanakyapuri, power for the telescopes and Internet connectivity for the Webcast of the transit.

However, there was also disappointment for the US scientists when a dust storm clouded the Sun and the Venus. Back

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