Transit of Venus: New Views of the Solar System and Galaxy Conference (Transit of Venus)

Venue: University of Central Lancashire

Location: Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom

Event Date/Time: Jun 07, 2004 End Date/Time: Jun 11, 2004
Abstract Submission Date: May 01, 2004
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We are very pleased to announce IAU Colloquium 196, “Transits of Venus: New Views of the Solar System and Galaxy”, to be held in Preston, Lancashire, UK, 7-11 June 2004.

On 24 November 1639 (Julian Calendar) in the tiny Lancashire village of Much Hoole, Jeremiah Horrocks made the first observations of a Transit of Venus. He was one of the first Englishmen to appreciate the astronomical revolution going on in Europe following the works of Tycho, Galileo and Kepler. It was Horrocks who first proved that the orbit of the moon is an ellipse, and Newton made good use of Horrocks’ discovery. Horrocks, who died at age 22, can be considered to be the father of British astrophysics for the remarkable depth of his accomplishments. His legacy reverberates today.

This meeting will have history running through it, linking modern research topics on: high precision determination of the solar parallax; distances in the Solar System and in the Galaxy; precise determination of the motions of planets, realisation of a dynamical time scale and fluctuations in Earth's rotation. It will examine critically the remaining uncertainties in currently available parallaxes, how they can be further reduced, and the implications for stellar physics and Galactic structure studies. This will include the galactic distance scale, and will look at the future of astrometry from the ground and especially from space, including Gaia and Jasmine.

This meeting provides an opportunity to observe an extremely rare astronomical event in its prime historical venue while having discussion of its current context and relation to modern science. This will allow experts to present the most recent and future developments in the scientific topics linked to this astronomical phenomenon and exchange ideas on the most important issues for the future.

The morning of Tuesday, 8 June (the 2nd day of the meeting) will be devoted to observing the Transit of Venus beginning just after 05:19 UT (06:19 BST) and lasting for nearly 6 hours. Live observations will be conducted through the telescopes of the University of Central Lancashire's Alston Observatory near Preston, and live video links to other observing sites will be displayed. There will also be visits in small groups throughout the transit to Carr House (built 1613) in Much Hoole where Horrocks made his seminal 1639 observations. After an afternoon’s rest, the day will finish with a conference banquet at the beautiful Hoghton Tower, a 16th-century manor house overlooking the rolling green hills of Lancashire where it is claimed Shakespeare worked for 3 years and where in 1622 James I was served a loin of beef that he so liked, he knighted it on the spot, Sir Loin. Our top table for the banquet will be the very table where the deed was done!

The meeting will have multi-disciplinary threads of science and history running throughout the sessions. An ancillary historical meeting for students will be held with some participation by this colloquium’s invited speakers.

Following the first relatively precise determination of the a.u. from the opposition of Mars in 1672 by Richer and Cassini, the great scientifically competitive expeditions to observe the Transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769 were the first examples of modern “big science”; those expeditions have given us some of the most colourful stories in all astronomy. With the length of the astronomical unit known, and with the discovery of stellar parallax in the 1830s, our view of the universe was fundamentally changed. It is fair to say that modern astrophysics blossomed from these determinations.

Transits of Venus were observed again in 1874 and 1882 for refinement of the value of the a.u.
No living person has ever seen this rare event. Many astronomers from around the globe will want to experience seeing this historic event, and Carr House in Much Hoole, Lancashire, is the prime historic site. We are sure they will appreciate the historical connections planned in the sessions and during the transit itself.


Additional Information

The registration fee for PARTICIPANTS is 140 UK POUNDS and covers the following: attendance at all conference sessions; copy of the conference proceedings; conference bag, badge, abstract booklet, maps, brochures, etc.; all coffee/tea breaks; welcome reception on 6 June Mayoral reception in the Harris Museum and Art Gallery on 7 June, including buffet meal and drinks; transport from university to Alston Hall and Alston Observatory on 8 June for the Transit of Venus, full English breakfast, and transport to Much Hoole Church and Carr House where Jeremiah Horrocks made his seminal observations of the Transit of Venus 1639; Jeremiah Horrocks Memorial Lecture on 9 June; internet access at Conference Venue, Harrington Building; use of other conference facilities, poster boards, information and advice services. Accommodation is available on request on campus at £30 en suite single bed and breakfast.