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A Cooks Tour of Venus

The population and culture of Australia was influenced by a key event in 1769 which reoccurred this week -- the passage of Venus across the sun on 8 June. Captain James Cook's voyage, which charted the east coast of Australia in 1770, had as a key mission the observance of the passage of Venus across the sun in Tahiti in 1769. Without Venus we might all be speaking Portuguese or French!

The last transit occurred in 1882 so you would need to be 122 to have witnessed this before (Unlikely – The last oldest known person was Kamato Hongo, a Japanese woman who died aged 116 in October 2003). The next passage of Venus is in 2012 as the first wave of baby boomers will have celebrated one year on the age pension. First to observe the transit was Jeremiah Horrocks, a 21-year-old English astronomer, in 24 November 1639.

Named after the goddess of love, Venus has a very unromantic climate. Temperatures average 482 degrees centigrade. You can see the effect of this melting the lens cover of the camera on the Venera 13 Lander during a brief photo opportunity in 1982 (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/imgcat/html/object_page/v13_vg261_262.html). The atmosphere is CO2 with a dash of carbon monoxide and nitrogen and the “sky” is filled with clouds of sulphuric acid. But if you could get comfortable you could have quite a night in bed together because the nights last 5,616 hours (because Venus spins so slowly on its axis).

Posted Thursday, 10 June 2004

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