Crowds visit U46 planetarium to view Transit of Venus event
By Erin Sauder For The Courier-News June 5, 2012 8:46PM
Six-year-old Hannah Guerra of Elgin asks astronomy expert Robb Walker about the Transit of Venus Tuesday on the grounds of the Elgin School District U46 Planetarium in Elgin. June 5, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:40AM
ELGIN — The myriad of people who flocked to the grounds of Elgin School District U46’s planetarium Tuesday evening were all there for the same reason: a little black dot.
That dot was actually Venus moving across the face of the sun. The rare astronomical event, known as the Transit of Venus, comes in pairs about once every century.
The previous one occurred in 2004, said Peggy Hernandez, a teacher at the planetarium.
“And this is the last time it will happen until 2117,” she said.
OneDarkSky, a website dedicated to making the night sky visible for everyone, partnered with U46 to make the Transit of Venus viewable by the community. Telescopes with special solar filters were set up to display the sun and the Venus transit. The planetarium had special solar glasses available for purchase.
Hernandez was excited at the number of people who attended the event.
“This is awesome,” she said. “I’m just so pleased. I’ve been telling all my classes for the last three months to stop by.”
Elgin resident Brian Heinrich brought his children, Sofia, 8, and Benjamin, 6.
“The last couple of months they have been really interested in space and weather,” Heinrich said. “So we thought it would be fun to come out. And it’s not going to happen again for another 150 years.”
Sofia was looking forward to catching a glimpse of the action.
“I’ve never seen anything cross the sun before, so I’m excited to see that happen,” she said.
Streamwood resident Paula Lambertz has long been fascinated by astronomy.
“This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see this,” she said.
A student of the observatory “decades ago,” Lambertz said she loves coming to visit when she gets the chance.
“It’s really cool to see everybody here,” she said.
U46 teacher Christy Whitney was excited to share the event with her children. She lauded coordinators such as Hernandez for bringing the community together.
“This is really great because so many of our (U46) kids are at-risk and don’t get to go to the planetarium downtown,” Whitney said. “We are really lucky. How many school districts have an observatory for their kids?”
U46 officials weren’t sure how popular the event would be but were pleasantly surprised at the turnout.
By 6 p.m., dozens of people could be found staring up at the sky through their sunglasses or catching a glimpse through one of the many telescopes.
“This is a great turnout,” said Jennifer McDonnell, U46 coordinator of math, science, planetarium and instructional technology. “There’s so much excitement over a little dot.”