Hundreds of skywatchers turned out on a rooftop of Camana Bay on Tuesday night to watch Venus’s transit between the Earth and the sun for the final time in their lifetimes.
The last time Venus could be seen passing in front of the sun was in 2004. It will not be seen again until 2117.
People of all ages lined up to look at the small dark spherical dot as it passed in front of the sun through telescopes erected on the rooftop. Venus first became visible around 5pm and could be viewed until sunset.
The Caribbean Institute of Astronomy filmed the transit of the planet set against the backdrop of the sun so it could be viewed live over the Internet throughout the Caribbean and the footage shot in Cayman was also shown live on television in Trinidad.
All around the rooftop, people donned special reflective or black solar viewing glasses so they could see the dot on the sun or peered into one of several telescopes with solar filters that had been erected on the rooftop.
The Cayman Islands Astronomical Society and Dart Enterprises hosted the viewing of Tuesday’s celestial show.
The Astronomical Society did not keep an exact count of the number of people who showed up on the rooftop, but handed out 1,000 solar viewing glasses to the crowd.
Transits of Venus occur in pairs, separated by alternating periods of time of either 121.5 or 105.5 years. The two transits making up a pair are separated by eight years. Tuesday’s transit is the second of a pair, with its counterpart occurring in June 2004.
The transit of Venus in 1761 was tracked by astronomers, urged on by Edmund Halley, who is famed for the discovery of Halley’s Comet. Fifty years before that 1761 transit, he wrote in the international language of science, Latin, that astronomers around the world should to work together to track the next transit. Those astronomers spread around the globe to track the path of Venus and their combined results gave the first accurate measurement of the distance between the Earth and the sun, calculated to be between 93 million and 97 million miles. Today, the accepted distance is 93 million miles.
Their work also enabled astronomers to calculate the size of the solar system.