By Michelle Durham

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A planetary spectacle that happens on average just twice per century will occur tonight.  The planet Venus will be “transiting” the Sun — passing in front of the Sun’s disk. 

The event takes place tonight, starting about 6:05pm and ending about 8:20pm in our area.

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Dr. Harry Augensen, professor of physics and astronomy at Widener University, says scientists have been interested in transits of Venus for centuries.

“It used to be used to measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun,” he explains.  “You can get a very precise measurement.  However, in modern day science, we have radar measurements — we don’t need (a transit of Venus) anymore, so it’s a pure observing delight that people can enjoy.”

As long as they do it safely, he adds.  Augensen says if you’d like to view the transit of Venus tonight, visit a local observatory such as the Franklin Institute or Widener University — and pray for clear skies.   But never look directly at the sun.

“The whole event takes a little over six hours, so we’ll be able to see the silhouette of Venus as it apparently crosses the face of the Sun.  It will look like a black dot about 1/30th the size of the Sun as viewed by Earth.”


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