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Cloudy Skies Prevent Transit From Being Viewed

Leesburg spectators were unable to see the rare astronomical event on Tuesday. It won't take place again until 2117.

Despite cloudy skies, amateur Astronomer Jack Brown set up a safe viewing station in front of the on Tuesday to view . The event occurs approximately twice every 120 years, he said, and the next one isn’t scheduled to take place until 2117.

“People started viewing this in about 1661 and the reason that it’s important is back in that era people didn’t know how big the solar system was,” Brown explained. “They didn’t know how far the Earth was from the sun and Edmund Halley figured out that you can use the transit of Venus to figure out how far the sun is.”

Unfortunately, spectators in Leesburg were unable to witness the rare astronomical event because of clouds. Had clouds not obstructed the view, Brown said it would have been quite easy.

“I brought a variety of things, from binoculars to a very inexpensive telescope and an antique telescope, to look at it,” Brown said. It’s probably best not to use an expensive telescope, he said, because the sun’s rays could melt your eyepiece.

“What happens is that rather than looking at the object you put it to your back so you don’t look at the sun and you just project it on a piece of white paper,” Brown said, which is the safest way to view the event.

Brown said that the entire transit process takes about six hours. Under the best conditions we’d only see it for about two hours, he said. 

Brown spent about an hour and a half at the library where he continued to answer questions and provided a history to those who showed interest. NASA also provided live coverage online.

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