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Eyes on sky for rare Venus transit

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The Solar Dynamic Observatory's view of Venus passing in front of the sun (AP/Nasa/Solar Dynamic Observatory)

The Solar Dynamic Observatory's view of Venus passing in front of the sun (AP/Nasa/Solar Dynamic Observatory)

The transit of Venus projected on card

The transit of Venus projected on card

A boy uses a pair of binoculars with special filters to observe the transit of Venus in South Korea (AP/Lee Jin-man)

A boy uses a pair of binoculars with special filters to observe the transit of Venus in South Korea (AP/Lee Jin-man)

The Solar Dynamic Observatory's view of Venus passing in front of the sun (AP/Nasa/Solar Dynamic Observatory)

From the US to South Korea, the eyes of the world have turned skyward for the rare sight of the transit of Venus. The next one will not be for another 105 years.

For astronomers, the transit was not just a rare planetary spectacle, it was also one of those events they hoped would spark curiosity about the universe and our place in it.

Sul Ah Chim, a researcher at the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute in South Korea, said he hoped people see life from a larger perspective, and "not get caught up in their small, everyday problems."

While astronomers used the latest technology to document the transit, American astronaut Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station was planning to take photos of the event and post them online.

Meanwhile, terrestrial stargazers were warned to only look at the celestial event with a properly filtered telescope or cardboard eclipse glasses. If the sun is viewed directly, permanent eye damage could result.

In Los Angeles, throngs jammed Mount Hollywood where the Griffith Observatory rolled out the red carpet for Venus. The last time the city witnessed a Venus transit was 130 years ago in 1882. A 2004 transit was not visible from the western US.

Venus, which is extremely hot, is one of Earth's two neighbours and is so close in size to our planet that scientists at times call them near-twins. During the transit, it will appear as a small dot.

This will be the seventh transit visible since German astronomer Johannes Kepler first predicted the phenomenon in the 17th century. Because of the shape and speed of Venus' orbit around the sun and its relationship to Earth's annual trip, transits occur in pairs separated by more than a century.

It is nowhere near as dramatic and awe-inspiring as a total solar eclipse, which sweeps a shadow across the Earth, but there will be six more of those this decade.

PA