Friday, June 15, 2012

Vardø and the Transit of Venus

Norways eastern most town, almost as far east as Murmansk in Russia, and further north. This town of 2000 is known for its radar tracking station Globus II. The original claim was that the station was for tracking space debris but a storm blew the dome off the thing and everyone noticed it was pointed at Russia. The site is in a prime location for gathering intelligence on missile installations.

Vardø was also the place where Hungarian astronomer Maximilian Hell observed the transit of Venus in 1769. In Europe at that time, the transit was taking place at night so to be able to witness the event, it was necessary to travel north of the arctic circle were the sun was still visible at night. From Vardø it was possible to witness the event in its entirity. Hell's observations allowed him to make an incredibly accurate estimate of the distance between the Earth and Sun. More accurate than anyone else had made at the time. The transit occurs twice, 8 years apart, every 122 years. It happened in 2004 and just recently on June 6, 2012.

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