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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Public Invited to View Venus Transit

Free event from 5 p.m. to sunset on Trafton plaza. Park along Maywood Avenue and in Lot 16.

Amanda Dyslin, Mankato Free Press, 6-5-2012

MANKATO — As James Pierce put it, an event will happen today that will never occur again in the lifetimes of anyone now on the planet.

And Pierce, emeritus professor of astronomy at Minnesota State University, is hoping to share in the experience with the public this afternoon at MSU.

The event is a transit of Venus, meaning the Earth, Venus and the sun will line up just so, and Venus will appear like a dark circle against the sun.

“If you had a large pizza, it would be a small sausage piece (in size),” Pierce said.

The last transit of Venus was eight years ago in 2004. The transits occur in pairs, separated by eight years, Pierce said. The two prior to 2004 were in 1874 and 1882. The next pair of transits of Venus will be in 2117 and 2125.

The transit will begin at about 5 p.m., when Venus will be at the edge of the sun, and will progress to about the middle of the sun by sunset at about 8:55 p.m.

The transit is difficult to observe due to the brightness of the sun, and Pierce said people shouldn’t look at the sun with naked eyes, anyhow. MSU will have various telescopes with solar filters for public use outside Trafton Center in the plaza.

Pierce said the 2004 transit was a bit of a letdown. In Minnesota, the event ended just after sunrise, and for the 30 minutes it was viewable, the sky was cloudy.

“I did see it, but not until Venus was exiting the sun’s disc,” Pierce said.

“That was kind of a disappointment.”

Pierce is hopeful today will be different. The weather is forecast to be sunny and cooperative.

“I’m very optimistic,” he said.

Transits of Mercury are more common, occurring about 13 times a century, Pierce said. But Mercury appears “ tiny,” he added.

So today’s viewing is worth the trip to MSU

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