Thousands of people throughout the Bay Area watched Venus pass in front of the sun for the last time this century.

More than 2,500 people gathered at the Chabot Space and Science Center Tuesday night for the transit of Venus. That’s five times the center’s average attendance, said Visitor Services Manager Samuel Aguayo.

“It’s a great success,” Chabot’s astronomer Ben Burress told QUEST’s Andrea Kissack. “This is the third in our triple solar play — the solar eclipse in May, and then yesterday was the lunar eclipse — and this is the last. It’s a nice way to end these celestial events.”

Susan Kelly waited almost two hours to peek through the center’s 8-inch telescope called “Leah.”

“It looks like a dot… a little black dot on the sun,” she said. “If you didn’t know what it was you would go, what’s the big deal, right? It just looks like another sun spot. But it’s not going to happen again in my lifetime.”

In San Jose, Bay Area Capullis, or groups, of the Aztec Mexicans nation performed traditional dances in honor of the transit of Venus. Organizers told KQED’s Mary Flynn they chose to perform in a grocery store parking lot in San Jose because they wanted to get the community involved by celebrating “where the people are.”
“You know, the transit of Venus across the sun could be something that we just all stand out here with smoked mirrors and say, ‘Wow, that’s really cool.’ But why not take the opportunity to bring our community together through dance and song, commemorating this moment and actually taking time to pause and reflect and say ‘okay, what do we value as a community?'” said Tamara “Mozahuani” Alvarado, one of the events organizers.

The transit is a big deal in astronomical history as well. The transits of the 1760s allowed astronomers to determine the distance between the Earth and the sun and come up with the Astronomical Unit, which is now used to help determine the size of the universe and other questions. NASA is now using transits to find new planets orbiting far-off suns.

You can watch an archive of the San Francisco Exploratorium’s live webcast from Hawaii here.

And KQED QUEST has Storified photos of the event…

Transit of Venus Webcast Replay and Photos 6 June,2012Lisa Pickoff-White

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