As planets align clouds could not lessen Transit’s shine

Transit of Venus

Persistent clouds cast a grey haze over Sydney skies on Wednesday 6th June 2012, but crowds still gathered at the University of Western Sydney’s Penrith campus Observatory in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Transit of Venus.

Director of the UWS Observatory, Associate Professor Miroslav Filipovic, says the weather did not curb people’s enthusiasm for the rare astronomical event.

“From our first viewing of the day, just after 8:15am, the UWS Observatory has been full of excited guests, all waiting for their chance to see the Transit,” says Associate Professor Filipovic.

“Just as Venus made its first contact, the clouds parted and the sun shone through. The extraordinary sight was live streamed directly to the Observatory’s movie theatre and a lucky few were looking through the telescopes at precisely the right moment.”

Guests at the UWS Observatory were treated to special one-hour viewing sessions throughout the day which included a short, educational presentation about the Transit of Venus and a 3D movie.

With the help of the Western Sydney Amateur Astronomy Group (WSAAG), guests were also given the opportunity to view Venus through a range of telescopes. The entire Transit event was also streamed live on the University’s website.

“With such thick cloud cover today, people at home may have required some patience to keep watching the grey screen. But when the clouds did pass, the wait was worth it. The sight was extraordinary,” says Associate Professor Filipovic.

“At the Observatory, the weather conditions just added to the excited atmosphere. When the sun did peek out from behind the clouds, there were cheers from the crowd.”

The Transit of Venus – one of the rarest astronomical phenomena of our lifetime – occurs when the planet Venus passes directly between Earth and the Sun. From Australia, Earth’s closest neighbour looks like a small, round silhouette, travelling across the Sun’s surface.

The Transit of Venus occurs in pairs, in cycles of more than 100 years. Captain James Cook sailed to Tahiti to observe a pair of Transits in 1761 and 1769, and our direct ancestors may have been fortunate enough to see the Transits of 1874 and 1882.

Following the Transits of 2004 and 2012, Venus will not pass between Earth and the Sun again until December 2117 and 2125.

Professor Jonathan Allen, Provost of the University of Western Sydney’s Penrith campus, welcomed guests to the UWS Observatory for this important celestial event and explained the significance of the Transit for all Australians.

“If it were not for Captain James Cook’s thirst for knowledge, excitement and discovery, Australia may never have been discovered. And it is this same thirst for knowledge that brings you all here today,” says Professor Allen.

Ends 

7 June 2012

Read the story in the Daily Telegraph and watch the ABC News report

Contact: Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer