Members of the Rappahannock Astronomy Club and more than 100 people went to Pratt Park Tuesday night to see the transit of Venus, but most only got to see a few sunspots.
Dan Casciaro, a RAC member, said he had a two to three minute window of the transit of Venus before the clouds took over.
"We got to see a little bit of it," he said. "I'm getting a thrill out of just seeing the sunspots."
Jerry Hubbell, president of the RAC, said this rare event won't happen again until 2117, so Tuesday night was a big night for astrologists and visual observers. He had a line of people wanting to look through his telescope that had a solar filter.
"It looked like a white circle with a little black dot coming into the sun. It's much bigger than a sunspot and it's easier to see," he said.
Casciaro used the down time to talk about auroras, photons and sunspots, and visitors seemed genuinely interested in his celestial education. Those who didn't get lucky to see the live transit had their cell phones out to show friends and family what it looked like.
Rebecca Cunningham was one of the lucky few who got to see the rare event.
"I saw a black circle and I saw a white splotch," she said.
According to the RAC website, transits of Venus were scientifically important in the early history of astronomy because it was realized that they could provide an accurate measure of the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
"In 1663, The Scottish mathematician James Gregory suggested in his Optica Promota that observations of the planet Mercury, at widely spaced points on the surface of our planet, could be used to calculate the solar parallax and hence the astronomical unit (AU)," said the website. "Edmund Halley (of Halley's Comet fame) proposed that more accurate measurements could be made by observing transits of Venus. After inconclusive attempts in 1761 and 1769, the transits of 1874 and 1882 yielded a value for AU that was reasonably close to today's accepted value."