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The Transits of Venus Hardcover – March 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 407 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1ST edition (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591021758
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591021759
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #556,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"...a history and a guide for the future on the beauty and meaning of experiencing a transit of Venus." -- Astronomical Society of the Pacific,

"...a timely book dealing with all aspects of the phenomenon..." -- Physical Sciences Digest, February 2004

"...a tour de force not only of the history of observing Venus but much of astronomy itself..." -- Science Books & Films, October 2004

"...you would be wise to read this excellent book before the events of this summer." -- New Scientist, February 2004

"Copious notes, a comprehensive bibliography, snd a good index...a most excellent guide to a remarkable astronomical phenomenon." -- The Observatory, October 2004

"Highly recommended." -- Choice, October 2004

Customer Reviews

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John Rummel on April 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
William Sheehan is one of very few authors whose books I purchase as soon as they're published. Though not an historian of astronomy by profession, he is among the elite few who have contributed significantly to popular writings in that genre in the last 15 years or so. In taking on the topic of the transits of Venus, Sheehan, joined in this endeavor by John Westfall, has produced a magnificent volume that any amateur historian of astronomy will surely want to read.
As with all Sheehan efforts, Transits is meticulously researched and detailed, yet written in a lively and conversational tone that is a pleasure to read. Here will be found excellent scientific background: the nature of transits, the importance of transit observations in unlocking the value of the astronomical unit, etc. More importantly, to me, is the rich treatment of the history of transit observations. From Kepler's Rudolphine tables, where the first transits of Venus were accurately predicted, to the life and times of Jeremiah Horrocks, the short-lived English astronomer who first successfully observed one in 1639, to the massive international efforts of the 18th and 19th centuries, this work is filled with detail, photos, diagrams, and immensely satisfying story-telling. Here's an example of the detail and rich prose:
"The long wait for a transit of Venus finally ended at 3:06:22.3 PM Honolulu mean time, December 8 1874, when George Tupman became the first person in 105 years to see a transit of Venus.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on October 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On June 8, 2004, I got up well before dawn and made my way to the school where I teach in Westchester County, New York. I met the astronomy teacher there--I teach physics and math-- and we proceeded to watch what we could of the transit of Venus, the passage of the planet Venus across the face of the sun. It dawned cloudy but we did manage to see the last half-hour or so and we got a number of excellent photographs of the event. It was a great morning--a chance to see a very rare astronomical event. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

Because of my experience, when I saw this book I couldn't resist taking a look. Sheehan & Westfall do a very good job at explaining the science of the transit, detailing views of the transit in maps & photographs, and in going through the history of the attempts at viewing and measuring the transit. Particularly interesting is their discussions of using the transit to measure the earth-sun distance and the number of voyages of exploration undertaken (including Captain Cook's) whose primary purpose was to find a good vantage from which to observe the transit.

Transits of Venus come in pairs separated by approximately 8 years. These pairs are then separated from each other by better than 100 years. Before 2004, the last transit was in 1882. After the transit of 2012, the next won't occur until 2117. Granted, this book is not going to hold any interest to anyone who is not interested in astronomy. But if observing the skies is something that fascinates you as it does me, read this book. Then put it on a shelf and pull it out again in 2012. Prepare yourself for the next transit because if you miss it next time, you won't get another chance. You'll have to leave the book for your grandchildren.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Frederic B. Jueneman on August 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
William Sheehan & John Westfall

The Transits of Venus

(Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY) 2004

407 pages

ISBN 1-59102-175-8

Reviewed by Frederic Jueneman

It may be much too late for readers of this review to observe the rare transit of Venus across the disk of the Sun, which took place on June 8, 2004, unless they already had been aware of the phenomenon and made prior arrangements to view the spectacle. As it so happens, the entire transit would only be visible in much of Europe and Asia, with some of the best viewing being in--of all places--Iraq. The eastern seaboards of Asia and Australia would only see the ingress of the transit, while eastern North and South America would only see the egress. The last time this transit occurred was December 6, 1882.

But, fret not my friends, for this rare celestial alignment will occur one more time in this century on June 5-6, 2012, as the entire transit passes across the International Dateline in the mid-Pacific. It's next two appearances then won't be until December 11, 2117 and December 8, 2125.

Curiously, these transits of Venus come in doublets spaced eight years apart minus some two days (or approx. 2920 days, with the appropriate allowance for leap years). However, the long intervals in between each pair of transits alternate between 105 and 122 years. Moreover, astronomers have grouped these transits into series, and which themselves recur every 243 years. (The number `243' is interesting as it coincidentally is the retrograde rotation of Venus in days.)

But, I digress.

The story itself begins with the dilemma of parallax, an age-old problem of viewing a body from two or more positions and estimating its size and distance.
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