DAET, Camarines Norte—With clear skies, the last transit of Venus in this lifetime has brought a unique experience to high school students here, who were able to watch the second closest planet to the sun—seen only as a black dot—move slowly from left to right on the upper portion of the star of earth’s solar system.
Some 240 high school students from different schools in Camarines Norte province trooped to Bagasbas Beach for a 25-minute lecture. They stood in line to use one of three telescopes on the lifeguard platform for the rare chance to see the slowly moving Venus.
Dr. Filma G. Brawner, director of the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI), the government’s lead agency in science and technology for human resource development, said the Venus transit was a rare planetary alignment that happened in pairs eight years apart. The two events took place only every 105 years or so.
Grant Paris, a fourth year high school student, could not contain his excitement because he knew the phenomenon would never happen again in his lifetime.
Paris said he woke up at 4 a.m. on the day of the viewing to prepare for the rare event.
The experience, he said, made him realize that humanity was just a speck in the vast universe.
Magdalena Villarin, a science teacher, said the high school students were very lucky that Bagasbas Beach was chosen as the venue for the Venus transit 2012 activity of the DOST.
Villarin hoped the experience would encourage students who were scientifically inclined to pursue science courses in college.
Divided into six groups of 40 students each, the high school seniors were given an orientation lecture on the Venus transit, which was first recorded in the 1600s, on the DOST’s air-conditioned Science Explorer bus.
Dr. Rogel Mari Sese, astrophysicist and focal person of the Philippine Space Education Program, gave a review of the eight planets in earth’s solar system and of astronomical events such as planetary alignments.
“A transit is an event wherein a celestial body passes in front of another object, the sun, from a fix point of view, the earth,” he said.
Sese said Bagasbas Beach was ideal for the Venus transit watching since it was located in an area (latitude 14°08’08N and longitude 122°59’01E) where the whole phase of the transit could be viewed.
Brawner said the Venus transit road trip of the Science Explorer to Camarines Norte highlighted the importance of astronomy. Like Villarin, she said it was a chance to encourage students to pursue careers in science.
“The activity aims to provide the students with the opportunity to observe and learn key celestial phenomena such as the Venus transit through actual telescopic observation and lectures,” Brawner said.
“The world witnessed the occultation most recently in 2004, the first transit of the planet since 1882. The importance of observing this celestial event goes beyond recording it in history. It is through studying transits that astronomers before were able to discover the existence and distances of planets in the solar system,” Brawner said.
She said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration identified the Philippines as one of the better view points for the extraordinary astronomical occurrence.
DOST made sure the students were able to observe safely the event by taking the same precautions as when observing a solar eclipse.
Brawner said the DOST followed the safest manner by using screens or solar filters on telescopes and binoculars.
“Staring at the brilliant disk of the sun without eye protection can severely damage one’s retina and (may cause blindness),” she said.
“We believe that exposing the young students to this kind of astronomical observation will boost their interest in science and hopefully motivate them to pursue studies in the field,” Brawner added.
A live stream of the Venus transit observation was shown at the SEI website (www.sei.dost.gov.ph), in partnership with the Advanced Science and Technology Institute, to enable more Filipinos to witness the phenomenon, Brawner said.
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