Venus on the move

Post date: Jun 06, 2012 10:13:48 AM

Today marked the transit of Venus across the sun. I missed it because it was cloudy in Auckland; the Wellington people missed it because it was raining and the Christchurch people because it was snowing. And because it'll be 113 years till it happens again I guess I've missed it for my lifetime. However if you were in Tolaga Bay, Haast or Tahiti the views were amazing and you would be able to tell everyone about the day you saw the spot on the sun.

I was reminded that of course one of the reasons for James Cook sailing to parts unexplored in 1769 was to view the Transit of Venus from a better vantage point. Views from Tahiti were amazing so he said. Incredible to think that in the 1700s astronomers knew a) about the transit of Venus and b) that it would be best viewed south of the equator even though south of the equator was in fact almost totally unknown territory to people of Europe. It was of course quite well known to the people of the Pacific. Mind boggling to me that James Cook was passionate enough to know about it and then convince sponsors and sailors that it was worth risking your life and money to go to see. Just as well it wasn't cloudy raining or snowing for him!