At the end of the day, we're all looking up at the same sky.
That probably rings true for Mike Simmons more than most people. The 62-year-old founder of Astronomers Without Borders has been connecting with folks from all over the world over a shared passion for astronomy, and today's Transit of Venus is no exception.
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The Huffington Post caught up with Simmons, a Southern California native (he moved here when he was three) to chat about this afternoon's celestial display. Luckily for us, we caught him just as he was rushing out to the Mount Wilson Observatory, where he's hosting a webcast of the event.
"The night sky doesn't have any borders or political issues," explained Simmons to The Huffington Post over the phone. "It brings people together in a way that other interests and activities don't."
Simmons has criss-crossed the planet chasing astronomical phenomena, and it was a visit to Iran in 1999 for a total solar eclipse that made him realize that the skies could be a unifying force. He found that when he shared his experiences in Iran with astronomy-lovers in the United States, he could unify two different groups of people over more than just the "political issues" between the two countries.
Later experiences in Iraq and elsewhere led him to found Astronomers Without Borders, based out of Calabasas, Calif., in 2006. On the site, Simmons explains that the organization is "people meeting among the heavens. It is only natural to do so. After all, we all share the same sky."
Simmons has seen the Transit of Venus before; in 2004, he traveled to southern Iran, directly under the sun, to take in the twice-in-a-lifetime cosmic show. He described how he was overcome with a "strong sense of connection" during the 2004 event with the astronomers of 1882, when the Transit of Venus last occurred.
"They talked about what it would be like in the future, and we were the future," said Simmons. "Now we're doing the same thing -- essentially passing this chain of Venus transits onto our descendants in the 22nd century. It's a real strong feeling, and we hope to get that across during the webcast as well."
Check out Simmons' webcast from the Mount Wilson Observatory at 2:45 p.m. He's co-hosting the show with Dr. Ian O'Neill, Space Producer for Discovery News, and together they'll be explaining the Transit of Venus, the history of viewings and then broadcasting the actual crossing when it starts at around 3:00 p.m. (You can also catch the show on your phone).
For Los Angeles-area folks who want to catch a live viewing of the Transit of Venus, go to the Griffith Observatory. There, the grounds will be open from noon to 10 p.m. for the phenomenon, which is expected to last from 3:06 - 8:02 p.m. The observatory will be selling solar glasses so that viewers can see the transit safely.
See people from all over the world watch the Transit of Venus from 2004. Photos by Associated Press.