Transit of Venus Causes Mass Transit to NASA Ames
Approximately 6,000 astronomy enthusiasts of all ages gathered at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. to view Venus cross in front of, or transit, the sun. People from all around the Bay Area — as well as one dedicated enthusiast who came from Seattle specifically for the transit — were drawn to Ames for its unique educational and viewing opportunities pertaining to the rare celestial event that took place on June 5, 2012, and will not occur again until December 2117.
At the beginning of the program, attendees perused exhibits set up within the visitor center, gleaning information about astronauts and life in space. The vast amount of people interested in learning about the solar event crowded the room to the extent that additional chairs were brought up from storage to accommodate them, and people needed to be counted at the door to prevent the center from exceeding maximum capacity. Once inside, children eagerly poked their heads through astronaut cutouts and walked through a model of the International Space Station interior as their parents snapped photos. Natalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist at Ames, gave a talk about how astronomers are using transit events today to search for other worlds beyond our galaxy. After the talk, attention turned to the live NASA TV feed of the event from atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Videos on the history of Venus and its major contributors, including 17th century German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, were featured in the programming.