Clouds obscure rare transit of Venus

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2012, 12:00am


All eyes turn to the skies at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront as amateur astronomers join the professionals to watch an astronomical event they're unlikely to be around to see again.

Amateurs stargazers joined the city's leading astronomers to see the tiny speck of the planet Venus slowly move across the face of the sun, an event known as the transit of Venus.

Astronomers said the strong turnout reflected a growing interest in the city in all things planetary.

Among the crowds at the event on the Avenue of Stars, organised by the Space Museum, the Astronomical Society, the University of Hong Kong's science faculty and the Ho Koon Nature Education and Astronomical Centre, was Aaron Lee Hung-shan, who arrived at 7.30am with his six-year-old twin sons.

'In the past, if we wanted to experience the atmosphere of big astronomical event, we had to go to Japan, but today I feel it here,' said Lee.

Lee put off work and woke his sons up early to enjoy the transit, which started at around 6am and continued until 1pm, but they were a little disappointed at the unexpectedly cloudy weather in the early morning.

'It [the transit of Venus] was not very clear because Venus is very small, and especially because there was cloud,' said Lee's son Axel Lee Yik-man.

Space Museum curator Chan Ki-hung and his colleagues started setting up the venue at 4am, providing more than 30 filtered telescopes for the public to see the transit and handing out 5,000 solar filters to allow watchers to view the event without risking damaging their eyes. And he said the growing enthusiasm for astronomy was clear from the questions he was asked.

'They asked us difficult questions - way more complicated than the ones they asked in 2004 [when the last transit occurred],' Chan said.

A pair of transits takes place about once in every century, with the two events eight years apart.

The next will not occur until 2117 and 2125.