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UPDATED: SCV astronomy enthusiasts enjoy rare planetary alignment

Posted: June 5, 2012 1:16 p.m.
Updated: June 5, 2012 4:46 a.m.

AThe black spot is the planet Venus crossing the sun, seen through a telescope set up by Haldun Menali, of Quincy, Mass., in a parking lot outside the Babies “R” Us store on Carl Boyer Drive in Santa Clarita on Tuesday.

At least 100 Santa Clarita Valley residents peered up at the sky through special solar glasses or solar safe telescopes as they watched Venus pass between the Earth and the sun for the last time in 105 years Tuesday afternoon.

 About a dozen members of the Local Astronomy Club in Santa Clarita set up solar safe telescopes and handed out 100 pairs of glasses as the historic event unfolded Tuesday afternoon, said Steve Petzold, event coordinator.

Onlookers watching the planet’s movement across the sun saw a small black dot moving slowly across the sun, with
some gasping and cheering as Venus slowly entered the sun during its ingress period.

“What is amazing about this is none of us will ever see this again,” said Daryl Ross of the Local Astronomy Club, who was projecting the image of the planet’s movement onto a screen during a gathering at the Babies “R” Us store Tuesday.

Several parents brought their children to watch the event with the help of the club.

John Palance, of Valencia — a self-proclaimed “geek” — brought his two young children to watch the event. The family also watched the recent annular solar eclipse with a telescope. “I say it’s just kind of cool,” said 8-year-old Austin Palance.

Although Santa Clarita residents were able to watch Venus begin its journey, the sun set before Venus exited its path across the sun.

This celestial event is very rare and has historical significance, because famous figures from history traveled great distances to watch it and used the information to measure the size of the solar system, including famous explorer Captain James Cook, Petzold said.

“Captain Cook traveled to Tahiti to see it,” Petzold said. “All these names in history are linked to something
in our history.”

The next time anyone will be able to see the event will be in 2117, so those attending the event admitted to their own mortality as they watched.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event of Venus, the Earth and the sun all lining up,” said Jim Van Winkle of the Local Astronomy Club. “2117 will be the next time, and I figure my great-great grandkids can watch it then.”


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