Wednesday, June 6, 2012
The Transit of Venus
Pynchon started his epic early American tale with Mason and Dixon viewing the Transit of Venus in South Africa. The 6-hour passage of Venus across the surface of the sun was used to help calculate longitude in 1761. There were simultaneous observations in Russia and across Europe, but apparently none in the Americas. M&D were in America from 1763-68. The next Transit of Venus was in 1769 when Jean-Baptiste Chappe d'Auteroche set himself up in Mexico to record the event, but died of fever shortly thereafter. Captain Cook observed the event from the island of Tahiti in 1769, while on his first voyage of discovery.