Press Pack - Press Release
Journey of Historical and Scientific Discovery to Touch Down in Lancashire
?I beseech you, therefore, with all my strength, to attend to it diligently with a telescope.? Jeremiah Horrocks, 5th November 1639
The Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has been selected as the UK?s focal point for all activities connected with a spectacular astronomical event that is soon to be seen across the world.
On Tuesday 8th June 2004, observers throughout Europe, as well as Asia and Africa, will be able to witness a very rare astronomical phenomenon when the planet Venus lines up directly between the Earth and the Sun. Seen as a black disc, Venus will take about six hours to complete its crossing of the Sun?s face ? known as a ?transit?. Given that the last time a Transit of Venus occurred was in 1882, no living person has ever witnessed this unique event.
The VT 2004 project (Venus Transit) has been formed to promote scientific international collaboration throughout the world. This includes the establishment of a large, international network of educational institutions that will be actively involved in the Venus Transit event.
Some organisations will work particularly closely with the VT-2004 programme and have been designated as ?VT-2004 Nodes?. UCLan?s Centre for Astrophysics has been selected as the ?UK Node? in recognition of the key contribution that it is making to bring accessible science into the school classroom and to the public at large.
?We?re delighted to have received this acknowledgment,? said Professor Gordon Bromage, Head of UCLan?s Centre for Astrophysics. ?The Transit of Venus will be a spectacular and memorable event. It represents a fantastic opportunity to fire the next generation of astrophysicists with enthusiasm for scientific discovery.
?And in an historical context this recognition is also entirely appropriate; in 1639, in the tiny Lancashire village of Much Hoole, Jeremiah Horrocks was the first person ever to predict and observe a Transit of Venus.?
On 8 June, UCLan?s astrophysicists, together with scientific colleagues* from across the globe, will retrace Horrocks? historic steps when they return to his old residence, Carr House in Much Hoole, south of Preston, to view the spectacular event. And regardless of the weather, Transit of Venus observations from around the world will be streamed live onto the University?s Transit of Venus website.
At the same time, children at selected schools across the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa will take part in coordinated transit observations. With the help of UCLan?s ?transit calculator? ? a specially developed interactive feature also located on the University?s Transit of Venus website ? the children will be able to measure the distance from Earth to the Sun, just as Horrocks tried to do in 1639.
Dr Robert Walsh, Senior Lecturer from UCLan?s Centre for Astrophysics, said: ?Horrocks is regarded at the father of British astrophysics because his observations had a profound influence on how we now measure the size of the Solar System and indeed the Universe. On 8 June Venus will be 43 million km away, but now its position is known to within a few hundred metres. Such accuracy is essential for interplanetary navigation.?
Notes to Editor
* During the week of the Transit, the University will be holding a major astronomical conference entitled: Transit of Venus: New Views of the Solar System and Galaxy.
The International Astronomical Union-sponsored meeting will bring together 100 astronomers and historians from over 20 countries to discuss past and present attempts to measure distances within the solar system and the universe. The precise measurement of astronomical scales allows scientists to probe cosmic mysteries, ranging from the motion of the planets to the expansion of the Universe.
History of Horrocks
On 24 November 1639 in the tiny Lancashire village of Much Hoole, Jeremiah Horrocks was the first person ever to predict and observe a Transit of Venus. He was one of the first scientists 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.
For further details see the Transit website: transit-of-venus.org.uk
or ring the UCLan Media and Public Relations Office, /5.
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