Sketching of the Transit of Venus, 1769.
Today, the Earth, Sun, and Venus became perfectly – albeit briefly – aligned in such a way that the sister planet appeared as a black dot transiting the disc of the sun. Venus transits are among the rarest of astronomical phenomena. They occur in pairs 8 years apart, however these cycles are separated by over 120 years. Today’s transit was the last until 2117 – the first transit of the cycle was in 2004, and the previous ones in 1882 and 1874 respectively.
In 1769, Capt James Cook observed the transit of Venus from the island of Tahiti during his first voyage around the world, and, alongside British astronomer Charles Green, recorded his observations in a series of drawings. Commissioned by the Royal Society of London, his mission to observe and record the transit was actually the voyage’s official purpose – the underlying purpose was the secret search for the elusive terra incognita, or supposed southern continent.