Every hundred years or so, the planet Venus travels on the same plane as earth’s orbit around the sun. Venus blocks the light of the sun so the planet can be observed from earth.
More than 200 people gathered on top of the Henderson Parking Garage in downtown Bloomington Tuesday night to watch a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event.
Indiana University astronomy graduate student Alec Hirschauer stood over one of three eight- inch Mead reflecting telescopes equipped with solar filters as people waited in lines for first contact.
“What we just noticed, right on time, just at the edge of the sun just at one edge of the sun there’s the tiniest little bite taken out of the light from the sun,” Hirschauer says. ”And as time progresses that little bite will increase from a half circle to a full circle.”
Venus made its first appearance at 6:03 p.m., the edge of the planet barely visible along the top right edge of the orange sun.
The astronomy department gave onlookers, scientists, amateur astronomers, students and families special sun glasses, allowing the sky watchers to peer directly into the sun and the small black speck that was Venus. The glasses reduce the amount of light entering their eyes by one-hundred thousand, lowering a significant amount of ultra-violet rays.
Amateur astronomers from around the area brought their own telescopes and used them to reflect the image of Venus off a mirror, through the eyepiece and onto a whiteboard or a piece of paper.
It was the first time Venus’s tiny silhouette was visible since 1882. The planet won’t be visible from the earth again until the year 2117.