Had it been any other day when rain drummed windowpanes during ‘unearthly' hours before 6 a.m., people of Thiruvananthapuram would rather snuggle back to bed.
But on Wednesday, many were up early, despite the heavy showers and the sleep-weariness, to watch the celestial spectacle when Venus visited the sun while on its transit. They didn't want to miss this show, which will be replayed only in 2117.
At 6 a.m. itself, a large group of space enthusiasts had assembled at the Kerala State Science and Technology Museum (KSSTM) to watch the transit. As the time drew close to 6.30 a.m., the crowd moved to the huge telescope placed in the front yard, one of the two reflective six-inch telescope and three solar scopes that KSSTM had arranged for public viewing of the transit.
Sleepy-eyed and rain-soaked, 10-year-old Nibodh shifted his gaze back and forth between the remote-controlled telescope and the white board that was placed next to it. When the time came, the clouds parted to let in the sun's rays. The telescope did a 90 degree manoeuvre and took in bits of the rays. Nibodh was well-positioned in front of a white board on which a reflected pattern of the sun took shape.
Then suddenly, Nibodh's face lit up. To the left-centre of the sun was Venus, the mythical Goddess of beauty, silhouetted yet striking as a small dark spot. Nibodh was wide-eyed now, having found what he came looking for.
But not all were as lucky as Nibodh. Some were disappointed about the mobile towers obstructing their view. But many still persisted, and some even managed to get pictures of the brightest planet on their camera phones.
Twenty four students from Sainik School, Kazhakuttam, were also among those who came to watch the spectacle. They interacted with experts at the planetarium, throwing questions on the danger of watching the sun without the protective glasses and about the area covered by Venus at a given time. “The Venus is only a tiny spot and to cover the entire diameter of the sun, there should be at least 110 spots like this,” vice-president of Astro, Kerala, K.P. Sreenivasan, said.
Fifteen minutes into the viewing, the clouds came in and shielded the sun. Many then rushed to watch the special show on the ‘Transit of Venus', organised by the Planetarium and Astro Kerala, hoping the clouds would clear after sometime. A few other chose to catch up with the live telecast of the event by NASA, made available at the venue. The Breakthrough Science Society, Thiruvananthapuram had also organised a similar viewing session at the Statue Junction. The members had distributed specially designed, imported black polymer films made for safe viewing. The society had organised special programmes in schools to educate children on the transit.
The show ended at 10.03 a.m., signalling the day had to get to work, school, and other daily, routine chores. Venus, too, had to move on, after visiting the star that gives the planet its magnificent gleam.