All eyes skyward

TUPELO – Itawamba Community College instructor Bob Swanson wanted to see the planet Venus pass in front of the sun on Tuesday afternoon.
He also wanted others to experience an event that won’t occur for another 105 years.
So Swanson, who teaches astronomy and physical science, set up a pair of telescopes near the Northside Boys amp& Girls Club. Members of the public were invited to witness the event, in which the planet looked like a black dot traveling across the star’s surface.
It was only the eighth time the transit of Venus – in which the planet’s path crossed between the sun and Earth – has occurred since 1631.
“It is neat,” said Tracy Leake, who teaches science at Shannon Middle School. “It is an event of a lifetime.”
Olivia Williams, 18, came because of her passion for astronomy. She often views Venus in the night sky, she said, and added that she had to take advantage of the chance to see the planet during the day.
The planet became visible in front of the sun at around 5 p.m. Before that, Swanson led a lesson for students in the Boys amp& Girls Club’s summer camp. He spoke to them about moon phases and showed them sun spots in the telescope.
“The community they serve here has a lot of kids who have probably never seen a telescope,” Swanson said. “Sometimes a lack of interest in science isn’t true apathy, but is a lack of opportunity.
“Learning about moon phases might get them to look up a little bit when they are walking in the evening, to look at the sky and think about why things do what they do.”
Plus, Swanson said, he is lucky enough to have access to the equipment, and he wants to share that with others.
Camper Jadarius Jones, 13, looked at sun spots through the lens.
“I saw the sun,” he said. “It was amazing.”

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