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VENUS, the planet named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, arrived punctually at 7.20 yesterday morning, after an absence of 122 years, for its meeting with the Sun. It then began its 6-hour transit across the surface of the star, but viewing from the Balearics was made difficult by clouds.
According to the National Institute of Meteorology (INEM), the weather made early observation difficult, because yesterday the skies were cloudy in the regions of Cantabria, with cloudy intervals in Castilla-La Mancha and Madrid, Navarra, Aragón, La Rioja, Castilla and León; as well as the mountainous areas of Cataluña, the Balearics and the Canary Islands. There was extensive cloudiness in Extremadura and Andalucia. The transit was divided in four phases of contact: the first, which began at 7.20am in Spain (05.20 GMT), was the moment at which Venus situated itself at its closest to the outer regions of the sun. The moment of the second contact, with Venus entirely now within the aura of the Sun, was pinpointed at 7.40am; the third contact, with the planet on the point of exit was at 1.05pm; the fourth, with Venus already outside the Sun, was at 1.25pm. Sixteen Spanish webcams offered direct viewing of Venus in transit in real time through the Internet, but the happening could be followed “live” from any geographical point, except in the Canary Islands, where the sequence was lost because dawn hadn't broken at that point. Experts warned that observing the transit of Venus, is much more dangerous than watching an eclipse. This is because the planet only covered 1/32 of the surface of the solar disc, therefore only minimally reducing its luminosity. In order to avoid blindness through burning the cornea, the only safe method of viewing was to project the image of the Sun on a piece of cardboard. The observatory at Costitx had an “open day” yesterday to enable the public first hand viewing of an event that will not be seen again from the Balearics until the year 2117. Enthusiasts were also able to watch the event from the Balearic University. Venus is the planet second closest to the Sun, at a distance of some 108 million kilometres, rather more than two thirds the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The planet has a diameter of 12'100 kilometres, with mass and density similar to that of Earth. The Venusian year is a little shorter than that of our own planet, lasting 225 days. However, Venus takes 243 days to give a complete turn on its own axis; meaning that a day on Venus is longer than its year (journey in orbit round the Sun). Additionally, the “day” is back to front on Venus where the Sun rises in the West and sets in the East.