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The 1874 Transit of Venus

By the 19th century, scientific apparatus had improved in accuracy, while better ship design and navigational technology allowed easier travel. For the Transit of Venus due to occur in 1874, George Biddell Airy at the Royal Observatory organised and equipped five expeditions to different parts of the world. These were to re-observe the Transit of Venus and improve upon the observations made by Cook and his team. The 1874 transit of Venus was the first to be photographed.

Countries where the Royal Observatory astronomers viewed the 1874 transit of Venus
View full size imageCountries from which the Royal Observatory astronomers viewed the 1874 Transit of Venus. © NMM

 
Before the five expeditions set out, the apparatus and portable observatories were assembled and checked in Greenwich Park.


An eyepiece from the Cooke Equatorial No 2 telescope.

An eyepiece from the Cooke Equatorial No 2 telescope.

A photoheliograph for Station B (Honolulu).

A photoheliograph for Station B (Honolulu).

Eyepieces from the Cooke Equatorial No 2 telescope. Eight equatorial telescopes were bought by the Royal Observatory Greenwich for the 1874 expeditions - two new telescopes by Simms, two new telescopes by Cooke and four second-hand instruments. After the expeditions, this telescope was brought back and used at the Observatory.

A photoheliograph set up in its portable hut ready to be shipped to Station B at Honolulu. The Royal Observatory Greenwich provided a photoheliograph for each of the five stations.
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A hut for a transit instrument.

A hut for a transit instrument.

The huts assembled in Greenwich Park.

The huts assembled in Greenwich Park.

A hut for a transit instrument set up in Greenwich Park in readiness for the 1874 expeditions.

The huts assembled in Greenwich Park for checking by members of the Observatory staff.
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An equatorial telescope assembled in Greenwich Park.

An equatorial telescope assembled in Greenwich Park.
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One of the equatorial telescopes in its portable wooden hut checked by staff and ready for the voyage.
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