Here in the UK it was very early on the 6th that the transit could be seen from the UK. Except it couldn’t, because the clouds had descended! I had to settle for photos like this from a NASA observatory. That left me time to ponder over a cup of tea (and some chocolate), about what it would have looked like on previous occasions.
Well, wonder no more, here’s what it looked like in 1769, the 3rd June 1769 to be precise…
No photos back then, obviously, and no quick hops on a plane to somewhere for a good view – how about a one year boat trip!
These drawings were taken by Captain James Cook’s party from Tahiti, after they had set out in 1768 for the exact purpose of recording the event!
Why? Well, astronomer Edmond Halley had suggested that by observing the event from different locations, a simple equation could be used to work out how far the sun was from the earth, something that was unknown up to then.
Long time readers of mine will know I *love* how science can be used like this. If you hold your thumb up in line with an object, then close your left and right eyes alternately, the thumb appears to move. That’s the principle that Halley wanted to use when observing the Venus transit to work out the distance to the sun.
The ship Endeavour set out on June 26th 1768 with 94 people and 18 months of provisions. After taking his drawings, on a fortunately clear day, Cook opened his sealed orders. He was not to return directly to the UK, but travel on the uncharted continent that we know as Australia.
He got to New Zealand, and then discovered the Great Barrier Reef by pretty much running aground on it. It wasn’t until 1771 that he arrived back in Britain, and the scientists could start crunching the numbers.
No computers back then, and they came up with a figure of around 93 million miles between the earth and the sun. We now know that this figure was correct to within 1%. That was in 1771 remember!
Wow, what a story, and I don’t know about you, but the life lessons are screaming out at me…
Using science to establish facts to prove theories – should you just accept things in life yourself, or should you go out and actually try them?
The logistical effort and 3 year trip to get the job done – will you take action, and are you prepared for the long haul?
The whole venture could have failed in any number of ways – are you prepared to accept risk and the possibility of failure?
So, although my view of the 2012 transit was blocked by cloud, it gave me a great chance to think about these ideas.
In the second of these articles, I’ll take the science right up to the present day for some more lessons, but in the meantime, how can you apply the lessons from the 1770s to your own life?
‘Til next time,
Let me know what you think!
Health & Happiness,
P.S.Don’t forget to look at my motivational book ‘Transform Your Life in 21 Days!’ which shows how I used ideas like this to go on some adventures in my own life!