A transit occurs when a planet crosses the face of the sun. The transit of Venus on 8 June 2004 was only its sixth ever to be observed.
In the 18th century, this rare event held the key to calculating the size of the solar system - “the most noble problem in nature”.
The transits of 1761 and 1769 were observed all over the world, requiring an unprecedented level of international organisation in science. This exhibition focuses on the British enterprise.
Expeditions and observatories were equipped to make precise measurements. Astronomers then gathered, compared and computed the results, all to establish the distance from the earth to the sun.
But the transits were not just for the scientific elite. Through books, prints and apparatus, enterprising lecturers and authors competed to engage a wide audience. The exhibition shows both the public and scientific impact of the transit in 18th-century Britain.