Students view rare astronomical event expected next only after 108 years

Students of over one hundred schools raced to their classes on Wednesday morning with an uncharacteristic speed and enthusiasm besides leaving at least an hour ahead of the time to catch a science lesson.

Perhaps the fact that they might have to wait for another 105 years to get another shot at attending this particular class might have spurred them to put aside their mid-week blues. They were even undeterred by the threat of losing their eyesight if they watched this class directly without external assistance.

Rather than being held in a classroom or even a laboratory, this class took them to the skies literally as the students gazed towards the stars to witness a rare astronomical event.

Known as ‘Transit of Venus,' which occurs twice about every century with the previous one occurring in 2004, it involves the orbits of Venus, Earth and the Sun putting them into the same alignment. Watching it directly was dangerous as sun's glare would harm the retina.

Tamil Nadu Science Forum arranged for students in over 600 schools in Tamil Nadu including 100 in Madurai to view the event. That the morning remained free of clouds also helped students catch a good view of the event.

Similar arrangements were also made by the Galileo Science Centre in association with the Mother Teresa University, Kodaikanal.

While they installed a six-inch telescope, which would capture the event and project it into a screen, at the St. Britto Higher Secondary School, the forum also gave out small hand-held devices that could do the same if kept in a dark room.

P. Rajamanickam of the science forum said that while the event occurred between 3.45 a.m. and 10.20 a.m., it became visible only after sunrise.

The previous occurrence of this event disappointed the people of Madurai as it lasted only for ten minutes and also the visibility was hampered by clouds. The event was also reported by the Madurai Station of the All India Radio.

The next one will not take place until 2117, making the event on Wednesday truly a last-chance opportunity for this generation as even their grand children might not see the next one, he added.

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