Transit When Planets Cross the Sun by Michael Maunder

By Michael Maunder

Although transits of planets around the sunlight are infrequent (only Mercury and Venus orbit the solar nearer than us, and so can transit the Sun's disc) novice astronomers can detect, list and snapshot other forms of transit, that are greatly extra common. Transit is in elements, the 1st telling the interesting tale of the early medical expeditions to watch transits. the second one half is for functional observers, and explains the way to become aware of transits of every type - even transits of plane as they fly among the observer and the Sun!

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Horrocks made what preparations he could, and there is no doubt that he observed the transit from an upstairs window in Carr House, in Hoole, close to the church:* His telescope was modest by modern standards; apparently it was a Galilean refractor, but its precise size is not known, and unfortunately Horrocks does not tell us. Sensibly, he used the telescope to project the Sun's image on to a graduated screen fixed behind the eyepiece, as Gassendi had done when following the transit of Mercury eight years earlier; the image on Horrocks' screen was 6 inches across.

Fixed upon the North point of the bay, which is the most Northern point of the island, for the place of observation; here we built a small fort, to secure us against the natives, which we called fort Venus; it was not finished and the instruments set up in proper order until the 10th of May, therefore the time for all observations made before this day, was taken by a watch with a second hand, the going of which was ascertained by altitudes of the sun as often as were necessary. The astronomical clock, made by Shelton and furnished with a gridiron pendulum, was set up in the middle of one end of a large tent, in a frame of wood made for the purpose at Greenwich, fixed firm and as low in the ground as the door of the clock-case would admit, and to prevent its being disturbed by any accident, another framing of wood was made round this, at a distance of one foot from it.

In retrospect it is rather fortunate that he did, because the Admiralty called in a young, unknown Naval lieutenant to take charge. On 5 May 1768 James Cook was brought before the Royal Society council and appointed captain of the Endeavour. The senior astronomer was to be Charles Green, who had been an assistant at Greenwich Observatory. Maskelyne knew him and trusted him; the two men had been together on a voyage to Barbados in 1762-63 to carry out the secor test of John Harrison's chronometer, and he was known to be an accurate and conscientious observer.

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