Transit of Venus – the book

'Transit of Venus' book cover
The 'Transit of Venus' book cover
In 2012, on 5 or 6 June (depending on location) people across the globe will have the opportunity to witness one of the most famous of astronomical events, a rare transit of Venus. This event takes place when, as seen from Earth, Venus crosses in front of the Sun. It occurs in pairs eight years apart and there is approximately one pair during each century. The transit of 2012 follows the one in 2004 and will be the last chance in our lifetime to see a transit for there will not be another until 2117.

The Observatory’s former long–serving Curator of Astronomy, Dr Nick Lomb, has prepared a book (available for purchase online or at Sydney Observatory, Powerhouse Museum or good bookshops) that is the essential companion to the 2012 transit. It provides detailed information on when, where and how to observe this exciting event. More importantly, it explains its significance and relates the stories of the exciting and adventurous journeys undertaken by astronomers to observe transits in past centuries. One of these was that of Captain James Cook to observe the transit of 1769 from Tahiti, a journey that led to the European settlement of Australia.

Observations of Venus moving in front of the disc of the Sun in 1874, by Henry Chamberlain Russell, the director of Sydney Observatory. Powerhouse Museum Research Library
Observations of Venus moving in front of the disc of the Sun in 1874, by Henry Chamberlain Russell, the director of Sydney Observatory. Powerhouse Museum Research Library
The book is extensively illustrated with rarely seen archival images of earlier transits plus stunning photographs from the 2004 transit. These are complemented by modern NASA images of Venus.

Description
The transit of Venus across the Sun in June 2012 will be the last chance in our lifetime to see this rare planetary alignment that has been so important in history.

Rich in historical detail and cutting edge science, along with practical information on how and when to view the transit, ‘Transit of Venus’ is the must-have companion to this extraordinary astronomical event.

An engraving of Captain James Cook who observed the 1769 transit of Venus from Tahiti and on his return journey mapped New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. Brian Greig collection.
An engraving of Captain James Cook who observed the 1769 transit of Venus from Tahiti. Brian Greig collection.
From Johannes Kepler’s first prediction of a transit of Venus in 1631, to Captain Cook’s 1769 transit expedition to Tahiti (which led to the European settlement of Australia), and on to our 21st-century quest to find distant Earth-like planets using the transit method, astronomer Nick Lomb takes us on a thrilling journey of exploration and adventure.

Endorsements
‘This is exactly what a great astronomy book should be: comprehensive, highly informative yet very accessible for lay readers, and beautifully illustrated to showcase the glory of the heavens.’
– Dr Kevin Fewster, Director, National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory, Greenwich, UK

‘With this superb and lavishly illustrated book, astronomer Nick Lomb has provided the complete guide to Venus transits past and present. Essential reading for everyone.’ – Dr Professor Fred Watson AM, Astronomer-in-Charge, Australian Astronomical Observatory, Coonabarabran

‘Everyone should see the transit of Venus in June 2012,since it is the last chance until 2117. And everyone should read Nick Lomb’s fascinating book, which beautifully and dramatically highlights both the history and scientific importance of the transit of Venus.’— Professor Jay M. Pasachoff, Vice Chair, Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society

Nick Lomb, the author of 'Transit of Venus, 1631 to the present', at the site in Goulburn from where a Sydney Observatory team observed the 1874 transit
Nick Lomb at the site in Goulburn from where a Sydney Observatory team observed the 1874 transit
About the author
Dr Nick Lomb was Curator of Astronomy at Sydney Observatory for thirty years (1979-2009). He continues to work as a consultant astronomer for Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and for Sydney Observatory. He is the author of the ‘Australasian Sky Guide’, published annually by the Powerhouse Museum, as well as several books on astronomy including ‘Astronomy for the Southern Sky’ (1986) and ‘Observer & Observed: A pictorial history of Sydney Observatory and Observatory Hill’ (2001). He led Sydney Observatory’s observations and celebrations of the transit of Venus in 2004.

Details
‘Transit of Venus: 1631 to the present’
By Nick Lomb

Published November 2011
ISBN 9781742232690
NewSouth & Powerhouse Museum, 232pp, HB, 230 x 230mm
RRP AU$49.95
110 images, full colour throughout

Table of contents
Introduction
A spot of unusual magnitude: 1639
Frozen plains and tropical seas: 1761
Venus of the South Seas: 1769
Capturing the transit: 1874 and 1882
Space-age transit: 2004
Observing the 2012 transit
Glossary
Bibliography
Acknowledgements
Index

Nick Lomb’s beautifully designed and illustrated book brings the history and importance of the transit of Venus alive with his engaging and lively text. Available for purchase online or at Sydney Observatory, Powerhouse Museum or good bookshops.

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