And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

tirsdag 5. juni 2012

The Transit of Venus

While I'm writing this the planet of Venus passes between the earth and the sun and can be seen as a dark speck against the sun's surface for those who have the right equipment. This astronomical phenomenon is called the transit of Venus and it occurs with a distinct regularity. The last time this happened was in 2004 and the next transit will be in 105 years' time. I am myself no astronomer and will refrain from going into details about the technical aspects, but I consider this a good excuse to commemorate one of the most important astronomers in the discipline's history.

In 1639 Jeremiah Horrocks (1618-41) discovered that despite what the planetary tables of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler predicted there would be a transit of Venus on November 24 that year. Aside from proving the previous tables wrong the event showed that despite Tycho Brahe's postulation, the planets are not self-luminous objects. Despite his groundbreaking discoveries Horrocks was largely forgotten until the publication of two treatises in 1662. The transit of Venus was described in Venus in sole vista where Horrocks had jotted down a brief occasional poem. I will post it here in commemoration of Jeremiah Horrocks and his importance in the history of astronomy.

Thy return
Posterity shall witness; years must roll
Away, but then at length the splendid sight
Again shall greet our distant children's eyes.

Jeremiah Horrocks recording the transit of Venus, painted by J. W. Lavender in 1903

2 kommentarer:

  1. litt lei meg for at eg gjekk glipp av heile dinna venus-greia no når eg las ditta diktet. men skal prøve å få det med meg neste gong:D

  2. Berre du hugsar på å ete rikeleg med gulrøter og ikkje drikke springvatn frå Førde, so skal du sjå at det går bra. Eg prøvde å få det med meg, men Trondheim var overskya.