Patricia Fara

Planetspotting

Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens

By

William Heinemann 304pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

‘Jesus, there she is!’ cried out a man in Munich as a small black dot bit into the Sun’s perimeter. At around the same time in Newfoundland, a Harvard professor left his tent to witness this ‘exquisite entertainment’ while, perched on a Russian mountain, a French astronomer was rewarded for his lonely vigil by being ‘seized with an universal shivering’. Two and a half centuries later, in 2004, the language was different but the reactions were similar. Equipped with dark glasses and expensive cameras, scientific tourists stationed themselves around the globe to watch the rare astronomical event of the planet Venus passing between the Earth and the Sun.

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