The Free Press, Mankato, MN


June 5, 2012

(PHOTO GALLERY) Skywatchers look up to watch rare Venus transit

MANKATO — Astronomy afficionados got a front row seat for a rare event Tuesday evening. Venus crossed the sun, called a transit, for just the sixth time 1639 when it was first observed by English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks. It won't do so again until 2117, making this the last transit of Venus for nearly everyone alive today.

Hundreds of people turned out at a viewing party hosted by Minnesota State University's astronomy department. They got a close up view of the transit through specially filtered telescopes and other viewing devices.

The event is more than an astronomical anomaly. Scientists are using the space-based Solar Dynamics Observatory, Japan's Hinode solar satellite and even the Hubble Telescope to study the transit, which will give them insights on the makeup of Venus' atmosphere.

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