The Difficulties in Observing the Transit of Venus in 1761 and 1769
Observing the transit of Venus was no easy task, it required careful observations and measurement. 250 years ago expeditions went out across the world to measure this amazing and rare event in order to help us understand the size of the known universe.
Edmund Halley and the Beginnings of James Cook’s Trip to New Zealand
James Cook's voyage to Tahiti in 1769 was the culmination of 130 years of work to observe and understand the Transit of Venus. Edmund Halley was instrumental in laying the foundations for the successful observations in 1769 and ultimately solving the Earth - Sun distance.
In New Zealand, Space Starts with Sheep; a new season is about to open for exoplanets as scientists discover an efficient method to predict microlensing; Earth's Moon to be used as a giant radio telescope; "Hello, Andromeda calling", gravitational waves might be used to carry information; 1500 km long water cloud appears on Mars after the planet-wide storm from last month, while InSider probe has only one month left hurling through space, and will land on Mars in November; scientists narrow down the landing sites for Mars 2020 rover; change of plans, why not land among the clouds of Venus? Hubble and Chandra telescopes have been repaired, mostly by switching them on and off and stay tuned for the position of Uranus in the sky.
Riding on Elon Musk’s muscle power earthlings are preparing to invade the Moon again. There they will find that some of its craters have been renamed to honour the Apollo 8 mission, the first to orbit our natural satellite 50 years ago. Venus is hailed by the Parker Solar probe that swings by it, Jupiter’s Moon Europa has 15 meters ice spikes on the surface and Saturn’s rings are not just water nor all the lost airline luggage. Mars has to resign to the idea that earthlings have figured out how to grow plants on it. Not even perchlorates can stop them. And last but not least, New Horizons is unstoppable going towards Ultima Thule.
How far from the Earth to the Sun – the Astronomical Unit
Next year is the 250th anniversary of James Cook's voyage to the Pacific Ocean. One the things he did was contribute to a more accurate calculation of the distance between the Earth and the Sun by observing the transit of Venus.
Venus doesn’t capture a lot of press time as it’s often overshadowed by the more hospitable Mars and the more photogenic planets of Saturn and Jupiter. It’s not all quiet around Venus, as JAXA has Akatsuki orbiting Earth’s twin and sending back some great images and building our understanding of Venus.