How the Transit of Venus Opened the Planet to Our Forefathers
It’s called the transit of Venus. The planet will appear as little dark circle on the sun as it zips between us and that big yellow ball. About every 120 years or so, transits of Venus come in clusters – two in eight years. The last one was in 2004, and we won’t see another until well into the 22nd century. Astronomers long ago figured out when the transit of Venus would occur, and they discovered that timing it down to the second would give them tremendous insight into the solar system.
When the event occurred on June 3, 1769, scientists – including the famous Captain James Cook – fanned around the globe in an attempt to uncover the secrets of the universe. In his new book The Day the World Discovered the Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Race to Track the Transit of Venus, author Mark Anderson uncovers the tales of the men who literally went to the ends of the earth in search of discovery. In an interview, Anderson talked about the goals of the missions, the way 18th-century scientists managed to measure time to the second, and how clouds on the big date may be more than just a mood-buster.