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Venus Transit activities wow crowds at NUS

06 June 2012

More than 1,000 people turned up at NUS to catch the rare Venus Transit

Crowds at University Town enjoying the unique "Venus Transit Symphony" which combined cosmic sounds, orchestral music and moving images

Telescopes of various shapes and sizes sprung up at the NUS multi-purpose field as more than 1,000 astronomy enthusiasts gathered to track the Transit of Venus, one of the rarest spectacles in astronomy.

A Transit of Venus occurs when Venus, the Earth and the Sun align precisely, such that Venus' silhouette is seen against the Sun. This unique phenomenon was the last in the 21st century, with the next happening in 2117.

Although the event in Singapore occurred from sunrise to early afternoon of 6 June, excited crowds already congregated the evening before to gaze at the stars and other celestial objects.

Activities organised by the NUS Faculty of Science (FoS) included a novel cosmic concert and public talks for astronomy enthusiasts to better understand the Transit of Venus.

An enthralled audience at Town Green@University Town on 5 June evening enjoyed a musical performance written and conducted by Dr Robert Casteels, a Visiting Fellow at FoS' Department of Physics. Titled "Venus Transit Symphony", the composition included cosmic sounds, orchestral music and accompanied by moving images and a monologue on human strength and frailty by well-known playwright Huzir Sulaiman and delivered by actress Claire Wong.

Sharing insights on astronomy at public talks on 6 June morning was Emeritus Prof Roy Kerr from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand who talked about his well-known scientific work on the discovery of the Rotating Black Hole Theory.

As for Prof Richard Strom, Visiting Professor and Astronomer at FoS' Department of Physics, he gave a historical overview of the Venus Transit, peppering his lecture with anecdotes of past astronomers who were devoted followers of the phenomenon.

An astronomy exhibition showcasing celestial images by renowned astro-photographer and NUS alumnus Mr Remus Chua, attracted many members of the public. Mr Leong Qixiang, an NUS Physics graduate, said he became interested in astronomy after viewing Mr Chua's stunning photos.

Teacher Mr Jayesh Kumar Jasvantlal, another Physics graduate, said that he enjoys sharing his sky-watching pursuit with others especially young students and "let them have this new perspective of their place in the world around them which is beyond our four corners".

For Ms Anne Nguyen, President of the NUS Astronomical Society, astronomy enthusiasts and science lovers largely do not pursue their interest for practical applications. Instead, it is "an excuse to marvel at the awe-inspiring nature of the Universe," she said.

The Society held the annual AstroChallenge - a prestigious local competition for astronomy and astrophysics enthusiasts at the secondary, Junior College and polytechnic level - in conjunction with Venus Transit.