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Westport Observatory Tracks the Transit of Venus

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Taking time out to look for the celestial event known as the "Transit of Venus" over Fairfield County early next week could be worthwhile because chances are you won't see it again in your lifetime. But you must take precautions to avoid damaging your eyes when observing it.

On the evening of Tuesday and Wednesday, the transit of Venus will occur, when the planet crosses directly between the sun and Earth. It happens in June or December pairings eight years apart in a pattern repeated only once every 243 years, with gaps of 121.5 and 105.5 years, between pairings. The last transit in the current pairing occurred in June 2004 and the next pairing won't be until December 2117 and December 2125.

"It's the clockwork of the solar system. These are known things. All we have to do is use a program to see what things are going to be like in the future or in the past," said Dan Wright, president of the Westport Astronomical Society.

Rolnick Observatory in Westport has special glasses, for those who make a small donation, which allow you to look directly at the sun and watch the transit. ­

"I cannot stress enough how dangerous it is to stare at the sun. It only takes one second of doing something stupid like looking through a telescope without properly aligning it," Wright said.

The observatory will be open at 5 p.m. for anyone who wants to watch safely. "It will be streaming live on the Internet from our telescope," Wright said.

Rolnick won't be the only one hosting an event. The Stamford Museum & Nature Center is holding a Special Observatory Open House for the transit of Venus at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The transit isn't the only celestial event happening at the start of the month, but it is the only one those of us on the East Coast can see. On Monday, there will be a partial lunar eclipse visible only over the West Coast, the Pacific and parts of Australia, and it will turn the moon red.

Another lunar eclipse will take place in November, only days after a total solar eclipse. But we won't be able to see those, either.

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