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Viewing of Venus transit a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Last chance in a lifetime

If you missed the solar eclipse two weeks ago, you may get an even rarer chance this week to see the sun dim when the planet Venus sweeps in front of our home star today. Miss it and the next showing won't be for another 105 years, astronomers say.

"Just knowing that you're seeing something happen that won't be seen by anyone alive today again is a really neat experience," said Holly Gilbert, a solar physicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Locally, the UND astronomy team will be holding a Venus Transit Open House from 3 to 7 p.m. at the UND Observatory southwest of Grand Forks. The facility will provide solar telescopes and special glasses designed for solar viewing, officials said. There also will be activities for children and tours of the observatory.

The UND astronomy team also plans a webcast starting at 4:45 p.m. and ending at 11:50 p.m.

To get to the UND Observatory, travel west on U.S. Highway 2 and turn left (south) just past Mile Marker 346. Turn right at the t-intersection and drive ½-mile west and take the first left and drive ½-mile. The observatory is on the east side of the road.

For more information, call (701) 777-6571.

There have only been a few transits of Venus recorded in human history -- the pair of transits are alternately spaced 105 and 122 years apart. The first was observed by English astronomers Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree in 1639.