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The June Flowers of 2004

In 6 days there will be the first transit of Venus across the sun in 122
years. Transits occur in pairs 8 years apart, with about 120 years between
successive pairs. Those of you in the wrong part of the world for this transit
will have a better position for the transit of 2012.

The astronomers of 1882 were thinking of us here in what was for them the
unimaginably distant future, so as we watch the transit please take time to
think of them. This will be the first transit to be observed by orbiting
spacecraft, and the first in which man-made objects are resting on the surface
of Venus, two accomplishments that probably would have blown their minds if
they could have known somehow.

"We are now on the eve of the second transit of a pair, after which there will
be no other till the twenty-first century of our era has dawned upon the
earth, and the June flowers are blooming in 2004. When the last transit season
occurred the intellectual world was awakening from the slumber of ages, and
that wondrous scientific activity which has led to our present advanced
knowledge was just beginning. What will be the state of science when the next
transit season arrives God only knows. Not even our children's children will
live to take part in the astronomy of that day. As for ourselves, we have to
do with the present...
-William Harkness 1882

"I think the astronomers of the first years of the twenty first century,
looking back over the long transit-less period which will then have passed,
will understand the anxiety of astronomers in our own time to utilise to the
full whatever opportunities the coming transits may afford...;and I venture to
hope...they will not be disposed to judge over harshly what some in our own
day may have regarded as an excess of zeal."
Richard Proctor, Transits of Venus, A Popular Account, 1875

"On our departure we left two iron pillars, on which our apparatus for
photographing the Sun was mounted, firmly imbedded in the ground, as we had
used them. Whether they will remain there until the transit of 2004, I do not
know, but cannot help entertaining a sentimental wish that, when the time of
that transit arrives, the phenomenon will be observed from the same station,
and the pillars be found in such a condition that they can again be used." 
Simon Newcomb, The Reminiscences of an Astronomer, 1903
(Newcomb's pillars were located in Wellington, South Africa, and cannot be
found today)

Links to many transit web sites:

Mathematical explanation of transit science:

John Philip Sousa, Transit of Venus March:

Live Webcast from Greece: Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Dan Schultz

(in Bern, Switzerland, enroute to Palermo, Italy, where hopefully the sky is
clearer than it is here today.)

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