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Popular Science News | Transit of Venus 2012

Popular Science News – it’s only a small black dot that passes over the surface of the sun which you can see if you get up before 5am on Wednesday 6th June, but the next time it’ll happen is 2117. Simply put, Venus passes across the sun, something which only occurs every 105 or 122 years and which last happened in 2004 although it didn’t happen in the 20th century.

In 1716, the British astronomer Edmond Halley suggested that if the exact time that Venus entered and left the sun, from locations as far apart as possible, the distance from the Earth to the sun and the size of the solar system could be calculated and this would provide huge benefits to mapping and navigation. The French Academy’s 1761 expedition to do this was a disaster but for the 1769 transit, British astronomer Nevil Maskelyne’s expedition was much more successful, discovering the distance from the Earth to the sun was 93,726,900 miles. This figure was less than 1% inaccurate.

The story of these expeditions is chronicled in the book Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens, which makes a fascinating read.

<a href=”http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0434021083/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=norcypfrepre-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=0434021083″>Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.co.uk/e/ir?t=norcypfrepre-21&l=as2&o=2&a=0434021083″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

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