All eyes on Venus

BOLOGNA, Italy – In this old center of stargazing, as in much of the world, thousands watched a rare heavenly show Tuesday: the black dot of Venus inching across the blazing face of the sun.

“Ecco!” gasped one matronly woman as the big screen at Piazza VIII Agosto showed a tiny perfect circle edge into view. “There it is!”

When scientists first worked out the Earth’s distance from the sun, the Venus eclipse was crucial. “This sight is by far the noblest astronomy offers,” Edmond Halley, of comet fame, declared in 1691.

Now mostly a curiosity, the celestial rarity still had excited crowds lining up to peer into telescopes from Australia to the American Midwest.

“It’s a brilliant opportunity to know the mechanics of our solar system,” said 14-year-old Shereeza Feilden at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.

“Spectacles such as this reinforce my belief that there is a Creator, and we are just tiny specks within this universe,” Zulkarnain Hassan, 26, said in Malaysia, a mostly Muslim nation.

Reactions were similar from people who shared a faith-straddling religious experience to those who marveled at a universal phenomenon.

“Imagine,” said Bologna astronomer Corrado Bartolini. “We can’t even tell when a car will reach Zamboni Gate in traffic, but we know to a fraction of a second when Venus meets the sun every 122 years.”

Venus makes two passes across the sun, eight years apart, every 122 years; the next one will be in 2012. As the sun is 30 times bigger, the planet is barely visible through special dark glasses.

Nicolo Reale, an art student in wild dreadlocks, forgave his roommate for dragging him out of bed to see Venus at the piazza. “Stupendous,” he said. “It makes me think of man and woman and love.”

In Oslo, Norwegian astronomer Knut Joergen Roed Oedegaard proposed to Anne Mette Sannes on a viewing platform, and 2,000 people gathered there thundered applause when she said yes.

American experts worked at opposite ends of Greece – on the island of Crete and at Thessaloniki – to study the “black drop effect,” which shapes Venus into a teardrop as it approaches and leaves the sun.

“It’s like a fine French wine for the people who know about it and enjoy it,” said Jay Pasachoff of Williams College in Massachusetts, who watched from Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University.

Associated Press

A fisherman goes about his morning routine Tuesday at Flagler Beach, Fla., as Venus creeps in front of the rising sun.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

Everett
Snohomish County likely to feel more like winter, beginning Monday

Get ready for a mix of rain and snow this week, along with cooler temperatures.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Mt. Pilchuck covered in snow is barely visible through the clouds as the sun breaks through illuminating raindrops as they fall off of the Mountain Loop Highway on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Active’ weather brings rain, snow, hail, fresh powder to Snohomish County

Up to an inch of snow could accumulate in the lowlands. Three inches of rain could fall in Darrington. And Stevens Pass is “doing quite well.”

Joanne Fisher, right, a meat wrapper with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on  Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Fisher was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
US sues to block merger of grocery giants Kroger, Albertsons

Grocery workers in Snohomish County and elsewhere have argued the merger would stymie competition and hurt workers.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee during its meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, where the panel indicated it would not move ahead with legislation to cap residential rent increases at 7%. The move effectively killed the bill for the 2024 legislative session. (Bill Lucia/Washington State Standard)
Plan for 7% statewide cap on rent increases fails in Olympia

State Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, told reporters the bill did not have enough support to move it forward.

People look out onto Mountain Loop Mine from the second floor hallway of Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mining company ordered to stop work next to school south of Everett

After operating months without the right paperwork, OMA Construction applied for permits last week. The county found it still violates code.

Shoppers cross Alderwood Mall Parkway after leaving the mall and walking through its parking lot on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood police seek 3 suspects after pursuit, brief shootout

The driver of a stolen car intentionally hit a teen boy Sunday, officers said. Police pursued the suspects near I-5.

Starbucks employee Zach Gabelein outside of the Mill Creek location where he works on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘We cannot keep up’: Mill Creek Starbucks workers file for unionization

The cafe’s crew joins the ranks of the 624 stores nationwide, including two other locations in Snohomish County.

The Nimbus Apartments are pictured on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County has the highest rent in the state. Could this bill help?

In one year, rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Snohomish County went up 20%. A bill seeks to cap any increases at 7%.

The Westwood Rainier is one of the seven ships in the Westwood line. The ships serve ports in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Asia. (Photo provided by Swire Shipping)
Westwood Shipping Lines, an Everett mainstay, has new name

The four green-hulled Westwood vessels will keep their names, but the ships will display the Swire Shipping flag.

A Snohomish County no trespassing sign hangs on a fence surrounding the Days Inn on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Meth cleanup at Edmonds motel-shelter made matters worse, report says

Contamination has persisted at two motels Snohomish County bought to turn into shelters in 2022. In January, the county cut ties with two cleanup agencies.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.