Church Celebrates Transit of Venus
|Church Celebrates Transit of Venus|
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Jeremiah Horrocks was only twenty one years old when he correctly predicted the 1639 transit of Venus. Even though Horrocks knew he could become the first person in recorded history to witness a transit of Venus, he prioritized his church duties over his personal pursuit.
The parishioners of St. Michael's Church in Hoole, England, have honored Horrocks for both his religious commitment and his astronomical accomplishment.
Jeremiah Horrocks noticed his hero, Johannes Kepler, had made a mistake in not predicting the 1639 transit of Venus in Kepler's Rudolphine Tables. After feverishly working out the math, Horrocks calculated the day and approximate time when Venus should transit the sun, just weeks before the actual event. He alerted colleague William Crabtree about the upcoming transit and called on Crabtree to observe from his location in Salford, England.
On that auspicious Sunday morning in 1639, Horrocks set up a telescope to project an image of Venus passing in front of the sun. Being a disciplined person of faith, he was called away on the Sabbath from his observing vigil "by business of the highest importance which, for these ornamental pursuits, I could not with propriety neglect."
Returning to the telescope less than an hour before sunset, Horrocks watched the clouds part. "I then beheld a most agreeable spectacle, the object of my sanguine wishes, a spot of unusual magnitude and of a perfectly circular shape..." Projected onto a piece of paper was the silhouetted planet Venus moving in front of the sun. Horrocks quickly applied himself to recording the 1639 transit of Venus before the sun set.
Unfortunately, within a year the promising young astronomer suddenly died, the day before he was scheduled to meet with Crabtree for the first time since they had both witnessed the 1639 transit of Venus.