Article ID: CBB468376565

Cook, Green, Maskelyne and the 1769 transit of Venus: the legacy of the Tahitian observations (2017)


The 1769 transit of Venus was seen by astronomers as an important opportunity to pin down a figure for the solar parallax (P), and thus establish the Astronomical Unit and the size of the Solar System. Britain therefore mounted a number of expeditions, the most important of which was led by Lieutenant James Cook in the Endeavour, with Tahiti as the intended observing location. In this paper we trace the planning that preceded this expedition; provide biographical accounts of the Endeavour's two astronomers and others who also carried out astronomical observations; describe the astronomical instruments taken on the voyage; document the various transit observations; and track the post-transit path of the Endeavour as it returned to England. We then discuss the values of P that derived from this expedition and others, and end the paper by examining a number of research issues relating to the astronomical aspects of Cook's voyage that have yet to be resolved.

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Authors & Contributors
Kapoor, R. C.
Sheehan, William
Orchiston, Wayne
Schaefer, Bradley E.
York, Tom J.
Maor, Eli
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
Journal for the History of Astronomy
Science and Education
Physics in Perspective
Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Princeton University Press
MagaVelda Press
Eclipses; transits; occultations; conjunctions
Solar system; planets
Cook, James
Solander, Daniel Charles
Wales, William
Lomonosov, Mikhail Vasilevich
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
17th century
20th century, late
New Zealand
Great Britain
Royal Society of London

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