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Venus transit to bring astronomy buffs out for rare event

June 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Last month it was an eclipse that drew the crowds to Griffith Observatory. And Tuesday brings another extremely unusual sight as Venus passes between the sun and Earth.

"If you're interested in things that are rare and remarkable, you've got to be excited about the transit of Venus," said Griffith Observatory Director Dr. Ed Krupp.

Venus will begin to appear on the side of the sun at 3:06 Tuesday afternoon.

"Venus just looks like a slippery little period on an oblique sentence sliding off of the sun's disk," said Krupp.

It will take hours to move across the sun before it will be at its most spectacular at sunset. The sun will go down before the transit is complete, but you will still have all afternoon to behold the planetary wonder.

This event happens twice every 120 years. Tuesday it will be visible across all of North America for the first time since the 19th century. It won't happen again until 2117.

"What's really nifty about this event is the madness of the crowd," said Krupp. "People get very excited about this. You see thousands of people descending on Griffith Observatory all taking part in what is essentially an astronomical event. And any time you've got that many people focused on astronomy and here at Griffith Observatory, it's very entertaining."

But as you take it in, be warned never to look at the sun without the appropriate eyewear, like welding glasses or specialized shades you can buy at the planetarium.

Or you can look through a telescope, like the ones volunteers are bringing to the observatory Tuesday to share in the celestial experience with other earthlings.


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