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Monday, June 25, 2012

Poor Conditions: SFI 89. Venus Transit Hero

There's today's image from SOHO.  Pretty barren.  That's why conditions on the HF bands are so poor today.

While looking for this I came across this account of Venus Transit Heroism:

 In the days of heroic astronomy, Chappe d'Autoroches not only risked his life twice to obtain critical, new knowledge from transits of Venus, but gave his life to help others in dire need. Here is his tale from the h2g2 web site in an article entitled "Forgotten Male Astronomers:" A French expedition led by Jean-Baptiste Chappe d'Autoroche (1728 - 69) went to Tobolsk, Siberia, to record the 1761 Venus transit. The team survived a treacherous river crossing and a lengthy journey through difficult, boggy conditions, eventually arriving at their destination just six days before the transit was due. Just before the transit, Jean-Baptiste was attacked by some of the locals, who believed he had caused unusually severe spring floods by interfering with the Sun. Cossack guards managed to save the team of astronomers, who eventually managed to make good observations of the Venus transit.
The French Academy were so pleased with the success of his mission that they engaged Jean-Baptiste to record the next expected Venus transit, due in 1769. He specified that he would travel anywhere in the world as long as the temperature wouldn't be below freezing. Tragically, when Jean-Baptiste and his team arrived at Vera Cruz in Mexico, they found themselves in the middle of a plague [yellow fever] epidemic. Instead of moving on to a safer place, the team decided to remain and help care for the sick villagers.
Even though he was mortally ill, Jean-Baptiste managed to record astronomical observations to establish the latitude and longitude of the site. These recordings were vital for the calculations of the astronomers back home in France, and were made with an astonishing accuracy, given the hazardous conditions in which the data were gathered. The observations they made provided some of the best data of the 1769 transit. Jean-Baptiste died of a fever just after the transit, aged 41 years.
A longer and more detailed version of these events can be found here: www.americanscientist.org

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