Coming in Spring 2004 to the Smithsonian Institution Libraries
Observing the Transits of Venus, 1631-2004
A Smithsonian Institution Libraries exhibition
March 2004-April 2005
Libraries' Gallery, National Museum of American History, Behring
June 8, 2004, an extremely rare astronomical event will occur: the
planet Venus will pass directly between the sun and earth and will
appear to us in telescopes as a small black dot moving across the
face of the sun. This so-called transit of Venus will mark the occurrence
of an event that has not happened since 1882. It will reoccur in
2012 and not again until the year 2117. Though a transit of Venus
may only pique our curiosity now, it was an event of staggering
importance to astronomers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Transits of Venus promised to reveal for the first time the true
distance from the earth to the sun and caused astronomers and their
governments to mobilize and carry out expeditions to far-flung locales
in order to measure most effectively the particulars of the event.
2004 transit of Venus provides an opportune time to look back on
the previous transits and examine the earliest observations, the
forces that brought about the later transit expeditions, and their
results. The discovery of transits of Venus is a remarkable tale,
and the stories of the expeditions themselves are rife with tragedy
and success so as to make excellent fodder for an exhibition. The
overall story is a bittersweet one, as the great effort, spectacular
failures, and hard-won successes were done for an unattainable prize.
Venus will tell the story of the transits of Venus using the marvelous
illustrations in the rich collection of rare books from the Smithsonian
Libraries, supplemented by appropriate artifacts from the National
Museum of American History and the United States Naval Observatory.
The full exhibition will be available on this site in March 2004.
the meantime, please examine these other online resources for more
information about the transits of Venus:
Venus Teacher Resource Page
This is a set of exercises and lesson plans designed for teachers
of a variety of grade levels to accompany and enrich the study and
discussion of the June 2004 Transit of Venus.
This all-encompassing website prepared by Chuck Bueter will guide
you to instructions for safe viewing; interactive education and
hands-on activities; global observing programs for students; background
information and tutorials; insights into historical endeavors and
the adventures of explorers; the role of spacecraft and the search
for extra-solar planets; and many miscellaneous items relating to
the transit of Venus.
The NASA Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum hosts this website.
The annual Sun-Earth Day for 2004 has selected the transit of Venus
as this year's theme. Opportunities are available to prepare for
the viewing of the event. This website has been developed to provide
the necessary resources and opportunities for participation in our
fourth Sun-Earth Day. The goal is to involve as much of the student
population and the public in this event as possible and to help
them understand the immense importance and excitement surrounding
this and previous transits. Through engaging activities focused
on US and world history, music, technology, math, and astronomy,
classrooms and museums can create their own event or participate
in one of the opportunities the Forum makes available.
and 2012 Transits of Venus
This website, prepared by Fred Espenak of NASA's Goddard Space Flight
Center, will let you know if and when you can see the 2004 and 2012
of Venus Bibliography
R.H. van Gent of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands has
prepared this extensive bibliography of original sources relating
to transits of Venus, with links to many of the original publications.