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Xavier faculty members gather to observe rare Venus transit

Planet passed between the Earth and the sun for the first time in 122 years

06/08/04

On Tuesday morning, Xavier faculty gathered at 6:00 a.m. on the 10th-floor patio of Schott Hall to observe Venus passing between the Earth and the sun. Between 6:15 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. the planet crossed the face of the sun at what astronomers call an inferior conjunction. The last time these three bodies lined up was 122 years ago.

“Venus’ orbit is tilted compared to the Earth’s and the sun’s,” said Terrence Toepker, chair of the department of physics. “So it’s not very often that all three of their paths cross.”

The entire transit—an east-to-west passage—took just over six hours and 12 minutes. However, those in Cincinnati were only able to observe the closing stages of the celestial phenomenon because the sun was below the horizon for the first portion of the occurrence. A telescope with filters was set up to observe the crossing, and Toepker videotaped the event.

As soon as the sun and Venus came above the east-northeast horizon, Venus was recognizable near the sun's right limb as a small, black, sharp-edged spot.

For more information, log on to www.transitofvenus.org