Locals Rise Early to Watch Celestial Event

Locals Rise Early to Watch Celestial Event

The George Washington Parkway was lined with people early Tuesday morning. They were among the lucky ones who saw Venus passing between the sun and earth just after sunrise. Called the transit of Venus, the last time it happened was 121.5 years ago. It will happen again in eight years.

Eager viewers were using everything from telescopes to sunspotters to eclipse shades to view the historic event.

David Tellett had his Skyquest telescope set up for viewing. While some people looked directly at the sun as it first rose and was still partly obscured by clouds, an alternative device was required as the sun became brighter. Tellett used a piece of cardboard onto which the image of the sun was projected.

"You can't look at it directly," said Tellet, who was happy to let people look at the image of Venus, a small black dot that was very easy to see crossing the path of the sun. While people in parts of Africa and Europe were able to see the entire transit, there was only about an hour or so of viewing for people on the East Coast.

John and Gail McNally didn't have any of their own equipment, but came out to the parkway to see what they could see.

John McNally said, "We were looking forward to it, I'm glad that people are sharing their equipment."

"It's cute to see the different gizmos," said Gail McNally. "It's fun to see how the kids have them all rigged up."

Eric Schmalz was eager to share what he was viewing with his 60mm refractor telescope. He also had the transit projected onto a piece of cardboard, where he had drawn out the path of Venus.

"I heard about it and wanted to see it," said Schmalz. "I do a lot of astronomy."

Dr. Paul Ray was using a Sunspotter to view the transit. An astrophysicist with the Naval Research Laboratory, he works on x-ray telescopes that study neutron stars and black holes. Ray was viewing the transit with his wife and daughter.

"It was great. The weather was perfect. At sunrise, the clouds were around and you could look at it [the sun] with your naked eye," Ray said.

Imre and Nora Gyuk were viewing the transit through the Sunspotter a solar telescope.

"We're lucky that all these people have telescopes," Imre Gyuk said.