Get a filter and look up: That dot is Venus

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Most people don’t tend to gaze at the sun for long periods of time because it’s painful and people instinctively look away. But there’s the temptation to stare at it during sky shows like solar eclipses or transits of Venus.

During the 1970 solar eclipse visible from the eastern United States, 145 burns of the retina were reported, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The eye has a lens and if you stare at the sun, it concentrates sunlight on the retina and can burn a hole through it. It’s similar to when you hold a magnifying glass under the blazing sun and light a piece of paper on fire.

It can take several hours for people to notice problems with their eyes but, by that time, the damage is done and, in some cases, irreversible.

Experts from Hong Kong’s Space Museum and local astronomical groups were organizing a viewing Wednesday outside the museum’s building on the Kowloon waterfront overlooking the southern Chinese city’s famed Victoria Harbor.

The transit begins there around 6 a.m. local time.

In South Korea, the transit coincides with a national holiday.

Choi Hyungbin, head of the Daejon Observatory, said he was expecting more visitors than might otherwise come out to watch the transit. Local media urged residents to visit observatories, reiterating the danger of looking directly at the sun.

This will be the seventh transit visible since German astronomer Johannes Kepler first predicted the phenomenon in the 17th century. Because of the shape and speed of Venus’ orbit around the sun and its relationship to Earth’s annual trip, transits occur in pairs separated by more than a century.

It’s nowhere near as dramatic and awe-inspiring as a total solar eclipse, which sweeps a shadow across the Earth, but there will be six more of those this decade.

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Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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Contributing to this report are AP Science Writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles; and Associated Press writers Rachel D’Oro in Anchorage, Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong and Hye Soo Nah in Seoul.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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