News & Events

Transit of Venus

2nd June 2004

Transit times

A special observing event for the public at Jodrell Bank Observatory:
The June 8th Transit of Venus: an astronomical highlight of the century.

On the morning of June the 8th, we in the UK will have one of only two chances to witness a transit of Venus across the face of the Sun this century. Such transits occur in pairs seperated by 8 years over 100 years apart.

The first time a transit of Venus was seen was on the 24th November 1639 when Jeremiah Horrocks observed it from Much Hoole in Lancashire. For the transits in the 1700's expeditions were made to far flung corners of the Earth to observe the precise moments when the planet crossed the Sun's limb. This gave a method of calculating how far Venus was from the Earth at its closest approach (~41.4 million km or 25.9 million miles), defining the scale of the Solar System and so enabling the mean distance of the Earth from the Sun to be calculated. (~ 149.6 million km or ~ 93 million miles.) This distance, known as the Astronomical Unit, is the fundamental length used as the first stepping stone in measuring distances across the Universe.

Jodrell Bank Observatory Visitor Centre will be open from 08:30 am on Tuesday and, should it be clear, the public will have a chance to see the transit for themselves. In addition, large screen displays will show images from around the world and there will be talks about the significance of the transit over the last few centuries.

Related Links

For further information, the possibility of interviews showing how it is possible to observe the transit in safety or media presence at the event (you will be most welcome) please contact:

Ian Morison, Jodrell Bank Observatory
Telephone : 01477 572610 during Thursday Friday Monday working hours.
or Mobile : 07973 634782 at all other times (Note: mobiles are not allowed to be on at the Observatory so this will only be on when off site.)