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Heavenly Passage

Venus puts on the show of a lifetime

12:27pm, July 6, 2004

It was a beach party the likes of which no one had seen for more than a century. On the eastern edge of Nantucket Island on June 8, more than 100 sky watchers waited in the gray predawn light. Clouds hid the first rays as the sun rose over the ocean, but then the clouds parted, revealing a slowly moving beauty mark, the silhouette of Venus passing the face of the sun for the first time in 122 years. Venus' transit over the sun's lower half had begun some 4 hours earlier, but that was before sunrise on Nantucket, one of the first places in the United States to view the passage. With still another 2.5 hours of transit to go, those gathered on the beach peered sunward with special glasses, binoculars, and telescopes.

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