The rain god was kind to the sky gazers as they could watch the celestial event of transit of Venus here on Wednesday.

According to a press release issued by A.P. Bhat, head of the Department of Physics, Poornaprajna College, who is also the coordinator of Poornaprajna Amateur Astronomers Club (PAAC) here, over 250 people, including students and teachers, watched the event on a clear sky in the morning on the college premises.

The PAAC arranged a day sky-watch of transit of Venus. Using a pinhole, the big image of Sun and the movement of Venus was observed. The event was also observed by wearing sun spectacles and through refracting telescope.

Vishwapriya Tirtha Swamiji of Admar Math and principal of Poornaprajna College K. Sadashiva Rao were among those who watched the event, the release said.

Lost in transition

It was a date that would not be for Mangaloreans with a celestial inclination. Touted as the once-in-a-lifetime event, many citizens who flocked to telescopes set up by the Amateur Astronomers Association, Mangalore, at St Agnes School on Wednesday morning to view the transit of Venus were left disappointed as a persistent cloud cover marred the event.

The faithful gathered at 6.05 a.m., when sunrise was forecast in the city, to see the first glimpse of the second planet in the solar system make its way across our view of the sun.

However, heavy cloud cover obstructed the view through the entire four-hour duration of the transit. “Yes, it is disappointing. Since the next one will be in 2117, we had hoped to see just a glimpse of the transit in our lifetime,” said Athira Balakrishnan, a student.

Among eager students, who had to finally be content with only a simulation of the transit shown on a computer and through plastic models, was 85-year-old J.N. Kashinath, who travelled through the morning downpour from his house in Konchady to the school. “I read in the papers about the transit and was curious about it. But, what can we do about the rains and the clouds? We'll just wait around for it to become clear,” he said.

There were moments of anticipation when the rain stopped and the skies cleared partially. However, with the sun still hiding behind the clouds the crowds thinned. When the cloud cover still persisted even around 10.19 a.m., the official time of completion of the transit, those who remained in the hall decided to pack up, resigning to the fact that their only glimpse of planet Venus making its way across the visible sun would come through TV images captured elsewhere.

With cloudy weather and rains during most of the year, Mangalore was not a suitable place for witnessing celestial phenomena, said Suraj Rao, a software engineer and an amateur astronomer who had lugged his telescope to the school.

Similarly, H. Jayantha, professor of chemistry, St. Agnes Degree College, who organised the viewing, said: “In June 2004, during the previous Venus transit, I had set up my telescope and was all ready to see the transit. Then too, there was heavy downpour and the transit could not be viewed.”

The Venus transit, a result of the differential elliptical orbits of the planets revolving around the sun, will once again be seen in 2117. However, being in the month of December, Mangaloreans may have better luck then.

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