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July, 2004 - Nr. 7


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Venus Draws Stargazers

Venus transit a powerful draw for German stargazers

   TWIG - German stargazers were out in force on Tuesday as Venus slowly crossed the face of the sun in a rare display that was said to have provided a romantic breakthrough for some — and serious eye damage for those who didn’t take the proper precautions.

The second planet began its six-hour journey across the lower edge of the Sun early Tuesday morning, appearing as a black dot on the face of the solar disk.

Across Germany, thousands of onlookers were armed for the occasion with telescopes, pinhole cameras and special dark glasses.

Until this week, no living person had seen the rare phenomenon, which occurs about twice every century but can be observed from Germany only once every 250 years.

In Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the event filled stargazers with a sense of cosmic wonder. In contrast, people in Canada and the eastern United States were lucky to catch a short glimpse of the event, while those west of the Mississippi couldn’t see it at all.

German astronomer Johannes Kepler first predicted a transit of Venus in 1627 but he died before he could witness one. Twelve years later, English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks became the first scientist to record the event.

The last pair of transits — in 1874 and 1882 — helped astronomers calculate the Earth’s distance from the sun. This time, the event was more noteworthy for its astrological than scientific implications.

As everyone knows, women come from Venus. And in the run-up to the event, Germany’s newspapers were filled with dire warnings of the transit’s tendency to arouse dangerous passions.

Wives were advised to keep a close eye on their husbands, who were said to be more inclined to stray under the powerful influence of Venus. Singles meanwhile rejoiced over news that the crossing would go a long way towards spicing up staid love lives.

"The rare constellation of the planets unleashes a massive amount amorous power in the heavens," astrologist Stefani Gregor told the German tabloid Bild. "Flirting was never as exciting or easy as it is today!"

With a more clear and present danger in mind, scientists advised stargazers to use some form of indirect projection to view the phenomenon, warning that looking directly at the sun with the naked eye can result in blindness.
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


German Space Agency


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