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The transit of Venus

What is a transit of Venus?
Captain Cook and the transit of Venus
The 1874 Transit of Venus
Station A - Egypt
Station B - Honolulu, Hawaii
Station C - Rodriguez Island
Station D - New Zealand
Station E - Kerguelen Island
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Station D - New Zealand

Major Palmer of the Royal Engineers led the party to New Zealand in 1874. For its camp, the group chose Burnham, 18 miles from Christchurch on the Southern Railway. 
 
Palmer persuaded several local residents to carry out observations with their own telescopes. To ensure good conditions, a circular was issued to owners and occupiers of land within a 3-mile radius of the site asking them not to burn grass after December 1, and to keep a watch against fire on the days near December 9.  Unfortunately, on the day of the transit the weather ruined the observations from all the New Zealand sites. Only Burnham managed some partial observations.

Station D - Christchurch, New Zealand
View full size imageStation D - Christchurch, New Zealand. © NMM

A portable altazimuth telescope used on the Transit of Venus expedition to New Zealand.

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A portable altazimuth telescope used on the Transit of Venus expedition to New Zealand.
This instrument was acquired by the Royal Observatory in 1866 and went to New Zealand for the 1874 Transit of Venus expedition, where the astronomers knew it as “the brass beast”. An altazimuth instrument is a telescope with scales and mounting that allow both local coordinates - the altitude and the azimuth - of a star to be measured without the need of any additional apparatus.

Level for a transit instrument.

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Level for a transit instrument.
A level for use with a transit instrument. The transit instrument was taken to Station D (Christchurch, New Zealand) of the Transit of Venus expeditions of 1874. The level is in a pine wood box made to fit the level exactly. The level itself is made of brass and screwed onto a mahogany mount. The scale on the level is made of paper with divisions from 20 to 0 to 20 written on in black pen.
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What is a transit of Venus?
Captain Cook and the transit of Venus
The 1874 Transit of Venus
Station A - Egypt
Station B - Honolulu, Hawaii
Station C - Rodriguez Island
Station D - New Zealand
Station E - Kerguelen Island
*
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Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

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Find out more
Transit of Venus 8th June 2004
Royal Observatory, Greenwich.
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StoriesGreenwich and the story of time
Find out why Greenwich is the home of Mean Time and the Prime Meridian
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Stories'The Centre of Time and Space'
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Related Resources
Related Images1 Images
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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