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Venus in Transit Paperback – February 1, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0691115894 ISBN-10: 0691115893

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691115893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691115894
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,877,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Venus will orbit across the face of the sun on 8 June_ 2004. This transit across the solar plexus has not been seen since 1884, ancient history in astronomical terms. Professor Eli Maor, mathematician and amateur astronomer, looks back at the history of Venus' solar transits. Very few transits have been recorded by Western astronomers; the first was in 1639 by an obscure astronomer named Jeremy Horrocks. Many astronomers have become obsessed by the transit, sometimes even falsifying information when weather prohibited them from clearly observing the transits. Data regarding the transit of Venus were considered to be extremely important and thus the subject of international intrigue, treaties, and cooperation (even during times of war). Early astronomers were sent all over the world to record the transits, and such voyages contributed to the discoveries of Australia, the Cook Islands, and Antarctica. Maor brings science history vividly alive in a manner reminiscent of Eco, with tales of eccentric astronomers, political corruption, and conspiracy. A delight to anyone interested in astronomy or the history of science. Michael Spinella --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Maor brings science history vividly alive in a manner reminiscent of Eco, with tales of eccentric astronomers, political corruption, and conspiracy. A delight to anyone interested in astronomy or the history of science."--Booklist



"Eli Maor's book is primarily a straightforward historical account of the five observed transits of Venus. . . . [It] will appeal to readers who enjoy an easy-going story. . . ."--Journal of the British Astronomical Association



"[Maor] reminds the reader what a long and circuitous route science has traveled to take the measure of the world around us."--Laurence A. Marschall, The Sciences



"In the course of recounting important transits of the past, Maor introduces us to some of the forgotten personalities in the history of astronomy."--Dan Falk, The Toronto Globe and Mail



"Maor examines the international intrigue, history, mystery, and science of what was considered an extremely important event that helped determine the accurate measure of the distance from Earth to the Sun."--Mercury



"A small gem of a book. . . . Maor explains with grace, clarity and wit why this event is so rare, and describes the heroic efforts and frequent misadventures involved in attempts to observe the five transits that have occurred in the almost 400 years since Johannes Kepler, the discoverer of the laws of planetary motion that bear his name, predicted their occurrence."--Jeffrey Marsh, The Washington Times



"Brimming with historical anecdote and up-to-date information, this book provides much more than a simple introduction to two of the most anticipated celestial events of the 21st century. . . .It chronicles the fervor, triumph, and folly that accompanied the last five transits of Venus witnessed by Western civilization . . . This book will please the history aficionado and the most ardent amateur astronomer."--William Schomaker, Astronomy



"[A] charming guide. . . . Maor weaves his tale with clarity and historical precision."--Owen Gingerich, Times Literary Supplement



"This book will fascinate those interested in chasing rare astronomical events."--Choice



"I enjoyed Maor's book; it is written in an easy, clear, anecdotal way that makes great bedtime reading."--Done Fernie, Nature



"[A] snappy, enjoyable, and eminently readable historical account . . ."--David W. Hughes, The Observatory



"Nobody alive has seen a transit of Venus, and if you miss the 2004 and 2012 events you will not have another chance. If you are interested in transit history, read Maor."--John Westfall, Sky and Telescope



"June 8, 2004: Venus in Transit is short and entertaining. This book is an engaging retelling of the story for a popular audience."--James Evans, ISIS



"Venus in Transit is a well written and documented account of previous transits, giving a real flavor of the characters involved and their achievements and disappointments in observing this rare event."--Astronomy Now


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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It is a great adventure story.
Paul Moskowitz
Maor's book is wonderfully written, and will be of interest to amateur astronomers as well as those with an interest in the history of science.
John Rummel
All of that work made it possible to predict transits of Venus.
Donald Mitchell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Paul Moskowitz TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A transit of Venus is a kind of solar eclipse in which the planet Venus, rather than our moon, crosses in front of the Sun. A century-long interval between transits makes the normal kind of solar eclipse seem like a frequent event. The transits occur in pairs separated by eight years, with over one hundred-year separations between the pairs. The last transit of Venus was in 1882. However, we can look forward to the transits of 2004 and 2012.
By traveling thousands of miles, I have been able to place myself in the path of the shadow for six total and two annular solar eclipses. With careful planning, and some last minute scurrying to avoid clouds, my success rate for viewing of the critical event is seven of eight. How ironic that today I was able to walk into my own back yard to view a partial solar eclipse under a clear cloudless sky.
By contrast with total solar eclipses, which may be viewed only within a narrow corridor, a transit of Venus may be viewed from any place on the Earth that faces the Sun during the event. Thus, simultaneous observations may be made from distant locations.
The author tells the story of the pursuit of transits of Venus by scientists whose aim was to establish a precision measurement of the distance between the Earth and the Sun. It is a great adventure story. There are the usual disasters: there are wars; ships are intercepted; natives run off with the instruments; and there are clouds. Finally, an unexpected optical effect, the "black drop", appears. In the end science triumphs, although not as expected.
We no longer need to measure the transits of Venus to establish the astronomical unit.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Whether you are interested in astronomy or not, you will find this book to be a rewarding expansion of your understanding of that important, awe-inspiring part of the scientific pantheon.
The phrase, transit of Venus, describes the process whereby Venus appears to cross the Sun during daylight hours from earth. For most of recorded history, few probably paid attention. And for good reason. You would have been blinded by looking directly into the sun except very near sunrise and sunset. And you had to know when and where to be looking because transits of Venus are rare. Besides, you could see Venus on most nights anyway.
In this delightful background preparation for the next transit of Venus on June 8, 2004, Professor Maor provides all the background you could hope for to help you understand how celestial events (especially this one) are forecast so accurately, their scientific implications, and how to enjoy them yourself.
Many famous astronomers were encouraged to enter the field by first observing an eclipse. The ability to accurately predict the timing and the nature of the event left them with awe. Perhaps this transit of Venus will be our most productive ever for generating scholars for the 21st century. Oh, by the way, if you miss this one, there's another one coming along 8 years later in 2012.
Although ostensibly focused on a type of celestial event, the book has a broader theme: How humankind can use reason to deduce new understanding of the physical world.
The book begins with the origins of modern astronomy, by describing the observations of Galileo, the conclusions about the solar system by Copernicus, careful measurements of Brahe, Kepler's deductions from those observations, and Newton's application of these lessons into his Principia.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Carlos Renck on March 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I read e: The Story of a Number and Trigonometric Delights from Eli Maor and found both to be well written and enjoyable. With the transit of Venus approaching, the previous experience with Eli Maor brought me to his latest book. The writing style is the same, clear, fluent, but Venus in Transit is at a different level, more superficial than any of the other two books. And a couple of statements make you wonder. On page 58 "...Venus reaches its ascending node around December 8, and its descending node around June 7, so a transit can happen only around these dates. But for a transit actually to occur, Earth, too, must cross the line of the nodes on these dates." There is an inversion here, for Earth reaches the line of nodes at the given dates, while Venus is usually elsewhere in its orbit at these dates as already pointed by another reviewer. And then on page 20 when describing Galileo's observations of the phases of Venus as the first solid proof for the heliocentric system, the author states: " Venus showed phases like the moon - a narrow crescent at the time, a gibbous shape at another, and occasionally a nearly full disk. Here was solid proof that Venus moved around the sun; for had it moved around d the earth instead, it would have shown a full disk at each opposition, when it was directly opposite to the sun [sic]." This is surprising. Venus is never at opposition with the Sun as the ancients new very well by observation. The epicycles and deferents in the geocentric system of Ptolemy had their sizes and speeds carefully adjusted to account for the maximum elongation of 47 degrees or so along the ecliptic between the Sun and Venus.Read more ›
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