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Upcoming Events & Exhibitions

Coming in Spring 2004 to the Smithsonian Institution Libraries
Exhibition Gallery...

Chasing Venus
Observing the Transits of Venus, 1631-2004

A Smithsonian Institution Libraries exhibition
March 2004-April 2005
Libraries' Gallery, National Museum of American History, Behring Center

On 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.

The 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.

Chasing 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.

In the meantime, please examine these other online resources for more information about the transits of Venus:

Chasing 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.

Sun-Earth Day 2004
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.

2004 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 transits.

Transit 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.


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