Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Transit of Venus and the Unknown Southern Land

On June 6 we  will have the opportunity to witness the transit of Venus when the planet passes between the Earth and the Sun.  There have been only six Transits of Venus since first predicted by the German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler in the 17th Century.

This is a bit of history for those us who sail Sydney Harbour. James Cook, crew and scientists were the first Europeans to reach the east coast of Australia, They made landfall at Botany Bay just south of Sydney Harbour in April 1770. Eighteen years later the British established a penal colony at Sydney Cove.

Cook sailed to the south Pacific ocean on HMS Endeavour,  to observe the 1769 Transit of Venus across the Sun and to seek evidence of the postulated Terra Australis Incognita the "unknown southern land".

Route of the first voyage of James Cook 1768 to 1771
Staring at the brilliant disk of the Sun with the unprotected eye can quickly cause serious and often permanent eye damage.The safest way to observe a transit is to project the image of the Sun through a telescopebinoculars, or pinhole.

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