What with all the attention being given this week to the Transit of Venus, don't overlookthe sonorously-named Chappe d'Auteroche (who went all the way to Tobolsk in 1761 for that century's Transit, Part I,, and then in 1769 to Baja California for Part II, and managed to produce two books, Voyage en Sibérie fait en 1761 and Voyage en Californie.
There were many interesting characters, among the more than two-hundred observers whom national academies of science sent across the globe, to observe the Transit, and make measurements from different vantage points, so that -- I forget how, but you can easily find out -- better estimates could be made of the sun's distance from the earth.
Cheerful, sure that he was doing something of great value, Chappe d'Auteroche did not only manage to bestride the world, going from far-eastern Siberia, in 1761, but eight years later, setting up his instruments in Baja California. In getting to Tobolsk, there were many dangers he had to pass, including the coaches and wagons he took that would just make it across the melting ice of rivers. He wrote up his observations on the people, and the representatives of state power, he encountered, in a work of both ethnographical and, in passing, political observation.
And in Baja California, after finishing his task of recording his observations, he caught typhus and died, sweetly sure that his work entitled him to be remembered. He was right.
So get ready for the big day -- it's about a week away.
The "ring of fire" solar eclipse may be history, but skywatchers have another stunning event to look forward to - June's historic Venus transit of the sun. On Sunday, May 20, the moon covered most of the sun's disk but left a ring of light blazing ...