Starry, starry sight

IT is a wonderful celestial phenomenon that won’’t appear again until 2117. Aware of that, 5,000 stargazers eagerly turned up at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang to celebrate the transit of Venus across the sun.

The people turned up in droves as early as 7am to get a good view of a black dot (Venus) travelling across the sun.

Everyone waited patiently to view Venus’ transit through 20 telescopes equipped with filters provided by USM’s Astronomy Club.

A two-hour downpour shortly after the planet started its transit at 7.30am yesterday did not deter the crowd comprising people from all walks of life including USM students and staff.

Siblings Ahmed Irfan Nor Azmean, nine, and Ifty Irdiana, six, together with their father Nor Azmean Abd Aziz, 37, got up early to witness the event.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the children and I.

“The timing of Venus in transit was perfect as it happened during the school holidays,” said Nor Azmean.

Year Five pupil Toh Jun Xian, 11, who was accompanied by his parents, said he was very excited to catch the event live.

“I have always been interested in astronomy and what is happening is very exciting.

“ I did not mind waking up early at all as I have been waiting for this to happen for weeks,” said Jun Xian.

USM Astronomy Club academic advisor Dr Chong Hon Yew said he considered this astronomical event to be very rare, adding that the last time this happened was in June 2004.

The Transit of Venus 2012 stargazing party was organised by the USM Astronomy Club and the Tuanku Fauziah Museum & Gallery.

The astronomy enthusiasts all gathered at the compound in front of the USM Guest House near the museum and gallery.

To add to the excitement, there were talks by Dr Chong, planeta-rium shows, soap bubble demonstrations, a water rocket workshop, a wayang kulit (shadow play) performances, batik art activities and astronomy exhibitions.

All this kept the big crowd busy and entertained.

Heng Ee High School in Jalan Hamilton also held its own Venus in transit event at the observatory.

More than 300 people comprising students, teachers, staff and members from the school board of directors turned up and were dazzled by what they saw.

Principal Goh Boon Poh said everyone had a go at watching the celestial spectacle through the school’s 228mm refracting telescope, adding that this was organised to get more students inte- rested in science-orientated matters.

Astronomy enthusiast Lim Choon Kiat said the transit of Venus across the sun was observed at the school through a Lunt Solar Telescope which had a special filter.

This allowed a better and clearer view of solar flares and sunspots.

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