Thursday, 7 June 2012

New World Economy

A New World Economy

The balance of power will shift to the East as China and India evolve
It may not top the must-see list of many tourists. But to appreciate Shanghai's ambitious view of its future, there is no better place than the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, a glass-and-metal structure across from People's Square. The highlight is a scale model bigger than a basketball court of the entire metropolis -- every skyscraper, house, lane, factory, dock, and patch of green space -- in the year 2020.  
There are white plastic showpiece towers designed by architects such as I.M. Pei and Sir Norman Foster. There are immense new industrial parks for autos and petrochemicals, along with new subway lines, airport runways, ribbons of expressway, and an elaborate riverfront development, site of the 2010 World Expo. Nine futuristic planned communities for 800,000 residents each, with generous parks, retail districts, man-made lakes, and nearby college campuses, rise in the suburbs. The message is clear. Shanghai already is looking well past its industrial age to its expected emergence as a global mecca of knowledge workers. "In an information economy, it is very important to have urban space with a better natural and social environment," explains Architectural Society of Shanghai President Zheng Shiling, a key city adviser.

It is easy to dismiss such dreams as bubble-economy hubris -- until you take into account the audacious goals Shanghai already has achieved. Since 1990, when the city still seemed caught in a socialist time warp, Shanghai has erected enough high-rises to fill Manhattan. The once-rundown Pudong district boasts a space-age skyline, some of the world's biggest industrial zones, dozens of research centers, and a bullet train. This is the story of China, where an extraordinary ability to mobilize workers and capital has tripled per capita income in a generation, and has eased 300 million out of poverty. Leaders now are frenetically laying the groundwork for decades of new growth.

Now hop a plane to India. It is hard to tell this is the world's other emerging superpower. Jolting sights of extreme poverty abound even in the business capitals. A lack of subways and a dearth of expressways result in nightmarish traffic.

But visit the office towers and research and development centers sprouting everywhere, and you see the miracle. Here, Indians are playing invaluable roles in the global innovation chain. Motorola, (MOT ) Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ), Cisco Systems (CSCO ), and other tech giants now rely on their Indian teams to devise software platforms and dazzling multimedia features for next-generation devices. Google (GOOG ) principal scientist Krishna Bharat is setting up a Bangalore lab complete with colorful furniture, exercise balls, and a Yamaha organ -- like Google's Mountain View (Calif.) headquarters -- to work on core search-engine technology. Indian engineering houses use 3-D computer simulations to tweak designs of everything from car engines and forklifts to aircraft wings for such clients as General Motors Corp. (GM ) and Boeing Co (BA ). Financial and market-research experts at outfits like B2K, OfficeTiger, and Iris crunch the latest disclosures of blue-chip companies for Wall Street. By 2010 such outsourcing work is expected to quadruple, to $56 billion a year.

Even more exhilarating is the pace of innovation, as tech hubs like Bangalore spawn companies producing their own chip designs, software, and pharmaceuticals. "I find Bangalore to be one of the most exciting places in the world," says Dan Scheinman, Cisco Systems Inc.'s senior vice-president for corporate development. "It is Silicon Valley in 1999." Beyond Bangalore, Indian companies are showing a flair for producing high-quality goods and services at ridiculously low prices, from $50 air flights and crystal-clear 2 cents-a-minute cell-phone service to $2,200 cars and cardiac operations by top surgeons at a fraction of U.S. costs. Some analysts see the beginnings of hypercompetitive multinationals. "Once they learn to sell at Indian prices with world quality, they can compete anywhere," predicts University of Michigan management guru C.K. Prahalad. Adds A. T. Kearney high-tech consultant John Ciacchella: "I don't think U.S. companies realize India is building next-generation service companies."

China and India. Rarely has the economic ascent of two still relatively poor nations been watched with such a mixture of awe, opportunism, and trepidation. The postwar era witnessed economic miracles in Japan and South Korea. But neither was populous enough to power worldwide growth or change the game in a complete spectrum of industries. China and India, by contrast, possess the weight and dynamism to transform the 21st-century global economy. The closest parallel to their emergence is the saga of 19th-century America, a huge continental economy with a young, driven workforce that grabbed the lead in agriculture, apparel, and the high technologies of the era, such as steam engines, the telegraph, and electric lights.

But in a way, even America's rise falls short in comparison to what's happening now. Never has the world seen the simultaneous, sustained takeoffs of two nations that together account for one-third of the planet's population. For the past two decades, China has been growing at an astounding 9.5% a year, and India by 6%. Given their young populations, high savings, and the sheer amount of catching up they still have to do, most economists figure China and India possess the fundamentals to keep growing in the 7%-to-8% range for decades.

Barring cataclysm, within three decades India should have vaulted over Germany as the world's third-biggest economy. By mid-century, China should have overtaken the U.S. as No. 1. By then, China and India could account for half of global output. Indeed, the troika of China, India, and the U.S. -- the only industrialized nation with significant population growth -- by most projections will dwarf every other economy.

What makes the two giants especially powerful is that they complement each other's strengths. An accelerating trend is that technical and managerial skills in both China and India are becoming more important than cheap assembly labor. China will stay dominant in mass manufacturing, and is one of the few nations building multibillion-dollar electronics and heavy industrial plants. India is a rising power in software, design, services, and precision industry. This raises a provocative question: What if the two nations merge into one giant "Chindia?" Rival political and economic ambitions make that unlikely. But if their industries truly collaborate, "they would take over the world tech industry," predicts Forrester Research Inc (FORR ). analyst Navi Radjou.

In a practical sense, the yin and yang of these immense workforces already are converging. True, annual trade between the two economies is just $14 billion. But thanks to the Internet and plunging telecom costs, multinationals are having their goods built in China with software and circuitry designed in India. As interactive design technology makes it easier to perfect virtual 3-D prototypes of everything from telecom routers to turbine generators on PCs, the distance between India's low-cost laboratories and China's low-cost factories shrinks by the month. Managers in the vanguard of globalization's new wave say the impact will be nothing less than explosive. "In a few years you'll see most companies unleashing this massive productivity surge," predicts Infosys Technologies (INFY ) CEO Nandan M. Nilekani.

To globalization's skeptics, however, what's good for Corporate America translates into layoffs and lower pay for workers. Little wonder the West is suffering from future shock. Each new Chinese corporate takeover bid or revelation of a major Indian outsourcing deal elicits howls of protest by U.S. politicians. Washington think tanks are publishing thick white papers charting China's rapid progress in microelectronics, nanotech, and aerospace -- and painting dark scenarios about what it means for America's global leadership.

Such alarmism is understandable. But the U.S. and other established powers will have to learn to make room for China and India. For in almost every dimension -- as consumer markets, investors, producers, and users of energy and commodities -- they will be 21st-century heavyweights. The growing economic might will carry into geopolitics as well. China and India are more assertively pressing their interests in the Middle East and Africa, and China's military will likely challenge U.S. dominance in the Pacific.

One implication is that the balance of power in many technologies will likely move from West to East. An obvious reason is that China and India graduate a combined half a million engineers and scientists a year, vs. 60,000 in the U.S. In life sciences, projects the McKinsey Global Institute, the total number of young researchers in both nations will rise by 35%, to 1.6 million by 2008. The U.S. supply will drop by 11%, to 760,000. As most Western scientists will tell you, China and India already are making important contributions in medicine and materials that will help everyone. Because these nations can throw more brains at technical problems at a fraction of the cost, their contributions to innovation will grow.

American business isn't just shifting research work because Indian and Chinese brains are young, cheap, and plentiful. In many cases, these engineers combine skills -- mastery of the latest software tools, a knack for complex mathematical algorithms, and fluency in new multimedia technologies -- that often surpass those of their American counterparts. As Cisco's Scheinman puts it: "We came to India for the costs, we stayed for the quality, and we're now investing for the innovation."

A rising consumer class also will drive innovation. This year, China's passenger car market is expected to reach 3 million, No. 3 in the world. China already has the world's biggest base of cell-phone subscribers -- 350 million -- and that is expected to near 600 million by 2009. In two years, China should overtake the U.S. in homes connected to broadband. Less noticed is that India's consumer market is on the same explosive trajectory as China five years ago. Since 2000, the number of cellular subscribers has rocketed from 5.6 million to 55 million.

What's more, Chinese and Indian consumers and companies now demand the latest technologies and features. Studies show the attitudes and aspirations of today's young Chinese and Indians resemble those of Americans a few decades ago. Surveys of thousands of young adults in both nations by marketing firm Grey Global Group found they are overwhelmingly optimistic about the future, believe success is in their hands, and view products as status symbols. In China, it's fashionable for the upwardly mobile to switch high-end cell phones every three months, says Josh Li, managing director of Grey's Beijing office, because an old model suggests "you are not getting ahead and updated." That means these nations will be huge proving grounds for next-generation multimedia gizmos, networking equipment, and wireless Web services, and will play a greater role in setting global standards. In consumer electronics, "we will see China in a few years going from being a follower to a leader in defining consumer-electronics trends," predicts Philips Semiconductors (PHG ) Executive Vice-President Leon Husson.

For all the huge advantages they now enjoy, India and China cannot assume their role as new superpowers is assured. Today, China and India account for a mere 6% of global gross domestic product -- half that of Japan. They must keep growing rapidly just to provide jobs for tens of millions entering the workforce annually, and to keep many millions more from crashing back into poverty. Both nations must confront ecological degradation that's as obvious as the smog shrouding Shanghai and Bombay, and face real risks of social strife, war, and financial crisis.

Increasingly, such problems will be the world's problems. Also, with wages rising fast, especially in many skilled areas, the cheap labor edge won't last forever. Both nations will go through many boom and harrowing bust cycles. And neither country is yet producing companies like Samsung, Nokia (NOK ), or Toyota (TM ) that put it all together, developing, making, and marketing world-beating products.

Both countries, however, have survived earlier crises and possess immense untapped potential. In China, serious development only now is reaching the 800 million people in rural areas, where per capita annual income is just $354. In areas outside major cities, wages are as little as 45 cents an hour. "This is why China can have another 20 years of high-speed growth," contends Beijing University economist Hai Wen.

Very impressive. But India's long-term potential may be even higher. Due to its one-child policy, China's working-age population will peak at 1 billion in 2015 and then shrink steadily. China then will have to provide for a graying population that has limited retirement benefits. India has nearly 500 million people under age 19 and higher fertility rates. By mid-century, India is expected to have 1.6 billion people -- and 220 million more workers than China. That could be a source for instability, but a great advantage for growth if the government can provide education and opportunity for India's masses. New Delhi just now is pushing to open its power, telecom, commercial real estate and retail sectors to foreigners. These industries could lure big capital inflows. "The pace of institutional changes and industries being liberalized is phenomenal," says Chief Economist William T. Wilson of consultancy Keystone Business Intelligence India. "I believe India has a better model than China, and over time will surpass it in growth."

For its part, China has yet to prove it can go beyond forced-march industrialization. China directs massive investment into public works and factories, a wildly successful formula for rapid growth and job creation. But considering its massive manufacturing output, China is surprisingly weak in innovation. A full 57% of exports are from foreign-invested factories, and China underachieves in software, even with 35 software colleges and plans to graduate 200,000 software engineers a year. It's not for lack of genius. Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT ) 180-engineer R&D lab in Beijing, for example, is one of the world's most productive sources of innovation in computer graphics and language simulation.

While China's big state-run R&D institutes are close to the cutting edge at the theoretical level, they have yet to yield many commercial breakthroughs. "China has a lot of capability," says Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Craig Mundie. "But when you look under the covers, there is not a lot of collaboration with industry." The lack of intellectual property protection, and Beijing's heavy role in building up its own tech companies, make many other multinationals leery of doing serious R&D in China.

China also is hugely wasteful. Its 9.5% growth rate in 2004 is less impressive when you consider that $850 billion -- half of GDP -- was plowed into already-glutted sectors like crude steel, vehicles, and office buildings. Its factories burn fuel five times less efficiently than in the West, and more than 20% of bank loans are bad. Two-thirds of China's 1,300 listed companies don't earn back their true cost of capital, estimates Beijing National Accounting Institute President Chen Xiaoyue. "We build the roads and industrial parks, but we sacrifice a lot," Chen says.

India, by contrast, has had to develop with scarcity. It gets scant foreign investment, and has no room to waste fuel and materials like China. India also has Western legal institutions, a modern stock market, and private banks and corporations. As a result, it is far more capital-efficient. A BusinessWeek analysis of Standard & Poor's (MHP ) Compustat data on 346 top listed companies in both nations shows Indian corporations have achieved higher returns on equity and invested capital in the past five years in industries from autos to food products. The average Indian company posted a 16.7% return on capital in 2004, vs. 12.8% in China.

The burning question is whether India can replicate China's mass manufacturing achievement. India's info-tech services industry, successful as it is, employs fewer than 1 million people. But 200 million Indians subsist on $1 a day or less. Export manufacturing is one of India's best hopes of generating millions of new jobs.

India has sophisticated manufacturing knowhow. Tata Steel is among the world's most-efficient producers. The country boasts several top precision auto parts companies, such as Bharat Forge Ltd. The world's biggest supplier of chassis parts to major auto makers, it employs 1,200 engineers at its heavily automated Pune plant. India's forte is small-batch production of high-value goods requiring lots of engineering, such as power generators for Cummins Inc. (CMI ) and core components for General Electric Co. (GE ) CAT scanners.

What holds India back are bureaucratic red tape, rigid labor laws, and its inability to build infrastructure fast enough. There are hopeful signs. Nokia Corp. is building a major campus to make cell phones in Madras, and South Korea's Pohang Iron & Steel Co. plans a $12 billion complex by 2016 in Orissa state. But it will take India many years to build the highways, power plants, and airports needed to rival China in mass manufacturing. With Beijing now pushing software and pledging intellectual property rights protection, some Indians fret design work will shift to China to be closer to factories. "The question is whether China can move from manufacturing to services faster than we can solve our infrastructure bottlenecks," says President Aravind Melligeri of Bangalore-based QuEST, whose 700 engineers design gas turbines, aircraft engines, and medical gear for GE and other clients.

However the race plays out, Corporate America has little choice but to be engaged -- heavily. Motorola illustrates the value of leveraging both nations to lower costs and speed up development. Most of its hardware is assembled and partly designed in China. Its R&D center in Bangalore devises about 40% of the software in its new phones. The Bangalore team developed the multimedia software and user interfaces in the hot Razr cell phone. Now, they are working on phones that display and send live video, stream movies from the Web, or route incoming calls to voicemail when you are shifting gears in a car. "This is a very, very critical, state-of-the-art resource for Motorola," says Motorola South Asia President Amit Sharma.

Companies like Motorola realize they must succeed in China and India at many levels simultaneously to stay competitive. That requires strategies for winning consumers, recruiting and managing R&D and professional talent, and skillfully sourcing from factories. "Over the next few years, you will see a dramatic gap opening between companies," predicts Jim Hemerling, who runs Boston Consulting Group's Shanghai practice. "It will be between those who get it and are fully mobilized in China and India, and those that are still pondering."

In the coming decades, China and India will disrupt workforces, industries, companies, and markets in ways that we can barely begin to imagine. The upheaval will test America's commitment to the global trade system, and shake its confidence. In the 19th century, Europe went through a similar trauma when it realized a new giant -- the U.S. -- had arrived. "It is up to America to manage its own expectation of China and India as either a threat or opportunity," says corporate strategist Kenichi Ohmae. "America should be as open-minded as Europe was 100 years ago." How these Asian giants integrate with the rest of the world will largely shape the 21st-century global economy.

Top Tech 2012

IEEE Spectrum's prediction of the tech that will make news this year

Predict the next century and you can fantasize; predict the coming decade and you can wax enthusiastic. But if you're looking at just the next 12 months, you'd better keep your feet on the ground. That's what we've done in this year's tech survey: In choosing our subjects, we considered mainly the likelihood of their figuring prominently in the coming year's tech headlines, not whether we thought—or hoped—the technologies themselves would succeed.
A case in point is extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography: It has been promoted for more than 15 years as the best way to sustain Moore's Law, and this is the year it's expected to reach the make-or-break point. We can't tell you whether it will win or lose, but in either case, the result will be big news in Silicon Valley—and beyond.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Anti Gravity Platform

Anti Gravity Platform Can Hover The Entire World  

 The last time we saw an anti-gravity platform Duck Dodgers was standing on it alongside Marvin Martian. So imagine our surprise when we clapped eyes on a real one. Yes, sci-fi fans, the gobsmackingly impressive Anti-Gravity Platform is here and it's set to blow your mind, twist your melon and bamboozle your noodle with its incredible floaty-woaty trickery. Do not adjust your eyes because thanks to several powerful magnets this amazing mains-powered device is capable of mimicking the effect of anti-gravity, levitating and slowly rotating a globe above its mirrored, LED-laden base. Wow! It takes a little practice to balance the globe but once you get the hang of it you’ll be making

Wii Fit Push Up Bars

Wii Fit Push Up Bars  

 The Wii balance board has long been in need for a useful addon, and this push-up bar is meant to deliver just that. Unfortunately, this set of bars are extremely vulnerable, being held in place using your weight alone and a couple of cheap foam strips acting as "grips" which essentially don't do much gripping at all. The design is sloppy and cheap looking and any significant pressure on the bar will result in it falling to pieces. The bar fits onto your existing balance board and is compatible with Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus. The $25 CTA Digital Wii Push Up Bar does, however, offer us the chance to look at the following video which is just about as cringe worthy as the product..

Refresh Electronics Charging Station

Refresh Electronics Charging Station 

The Refresh Electronics Charging Station is a sleek charging station that allows you to recharge four devices simultaneously. Compatible with over 1,000 products, it is also "future ready" by incorporating the micro USB based charging interface - a standard being introduced by most major brands. Fully customizable via two USB sockets and extra connectors for an additional 2,000 device compatibility. A practical and affordable charging station, Refresh is offered in white or black color choice. Refresh is an extraordinary good looking product, designed for the office and every room in the house - so you can recharge most if not all of your electronic devices simultaneously: all...

Doxie Portable Scanner 

At first glance this does not look like a scanner. Light, compact and an unconventional shape would excuse you from making this assumption. This, however, is not intended to lie in your office, but has been made with portability in mind. Take it with you on your business travels, allowing for quick and easy duplicating of any documents needed. The product was revealed three months ago, but has only now started being shipped. The Doxie scanner retails at $129, and is likely to prove a trusty companion for all your business expeditions. The scanner is extremely lightweight, weighing in at a mere 10.9 ounces. It is also USB powered, allowing you to scan paper directly to PC's, Macs...

Hp Touchsmart Pc Core I3 And Core I5

Hp Touchsmart Pc Core I3 And Core I5 

The latest trend of HP products look brilliant. The highlight products are the transformed TouchSMart PC's, the TouchSmart 300 and the TouchSmart 600, now built with the Core i3 and Core i5. Also included is a "Beats Audio" program, and a range of pre-loaded software. The Core i3 and the Core i5 are priced at $799 and $1,099, respectively. Also, HP have revealed their new All-In-One 200-5020 machine, priced at $699, exhibiting a 21.5 inch 1080p touch screen, WIndows 7 bundled, WiFi enabled, optional mouse / keyboard, DVD burner, integral webcam and MediaSmart software package. Thirdly, there's the HP Compaq Pro Ultra Slim. Measuring in at 10 inches high and 2.6 inches...

D Box Mfx Seats To Be Introduced To Cinemas

D Box Mfx Seats To Be Introduced To Cinemas 

With all the progress and advancements in visual displays, including HD 3D, LCD televisions and 3d TV's, it's refreshing to see something else considered in an effort to improve the cinematic experience. The technology I'm talking about is the D-Box seat, revealed at the 2009 CES, but only now being installed in cinemas. The seat essentially moves with the film. Speakers are fitted to the seat, to deliver a better sound, with more clarity. In South Jordan, one of the District's Megaplex's is going to host an entire theater with the D-Box seats built in. 28 D-Box MFX seats will be included in the auditorium, which equates to four rows, and will be the very first movie theater...


Build Your Own Rollercoaster 

Rollercoasters are always fun. You may have played some video games where you control a theme park, and build up your own rollercoaster. Well, now you can physically build up your own coaster and watch as the carriage travels along your custom built track. The coaster can be extended to four feet long, with simple assembly and also some nice additional touches such as safety mechanisms built into the seats for your virtual passengers. Product Specifications * For Ages 14 and Up * WARNING: Choking hazard. Contains small parts. * Build your own fully operational mini roller coaster * Easy to assemble with new modular design with molded track...

Dxg 5d7v 3d Video Camcorder

Dxg 5d7v Worlds First 3d Video Camcorder

With the world beginning to get to terms with HD equipment, it is only fitting that the worlds first 3D enabled pocket camcorder has been launched. Courtesy of DGX, no glasses are required to appreciate the 3D imagery, utilising the 3.2-inch LCD camcorder display, on the included 3D 7-inch media player. The camcorder also takes 2D images and video, but the 3d feature will be the persuasive selling point. The camcorder includes touch-screen technology and a remote control allowing you to view and control your video content and still images quickly and effortlessly. Here are the technical specifications: DXG 3D Media Player Specifications: Dimensions: 8.39" (W) x 5.41" (H) x...

Smartfish Engage Keyboard

Smartfish Engage Keyboard Ergonomically Efficient 

An on-going two year production from manufacturers Smartfish has finally been completed and is soon ready to be unveiled. The keyboard, previously known as the Pro Motion and Ergomotion, has been revamped with an elegant all-black finish and boasting a 150 dollar price tag. The keyboard exhibits an internal motor which adjusts the two halves of the keyboard based on the individuals typing frequency. The adjustments made help combat fatigue, an effort developed in collaboration with The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. The keyboard looks impressive, and the ideas behind the self-adjustement mechanism sound very sophisticated. Until the keyboard is officially released,...
  Dxg 5d7v Worlds First 3d Video Camcorder Posted as a New Invention on August 1, 2010 with 68 comments With the world beginning to get to terms with HD equipment, it is only fitting that the worlds first 3D enabled pocket camcorder has been launched. Courtesy of DGX, no glasses are required to appreciate the 3D imagery, utilising the 3.2-inch LCD camcorder display, on the included 3D 7-inch media player. The camcorder also takes 2D images and video, but the 3d feature will be the persuasive selling point. The camcorder includes touch-screen technology and a remote control allowing you to view and control your video content and still images quickly and effortlessly. Here are the technical specifications: DXG 3D Media Player Specifications: Dimensions: 8.39" (W) x 5.41" (H) x...

Lexmark Genesis All In One Printer

Lexmark Genesis All In One Printer

Lexmark's new concept combines style, speed and elegance into one single all in one inkjet printer, termed the Genesis.

Utilising Flash Scan technology, the Genesis produces prints incredibly quickly and switches between print and scan functions in the blink of an eye. The scanning process is said not to last any longer than three seconds, based on the premise that your Operating System is up to date, your PC is equipped with an up to date specification in terms of hardware and the usage of character recognition software.
The Lexmark Genesis looks smart in its upright position, made even more slick by posessing a 4.4 inch color touch screen. The printer comes wirelessly enabled allowing you to access web technologies quickly, without the need for booting up your PC also. Browse through Twitter feeds, look through Facebook all from the printer itself, and upload scans to wherever you wish. This really is a printer for the current generation, which makes most other printers on the market look a bit cheap and dated.

If it's a classy, up to date and intuitive printer you are after to replace an old one, then look no further than the Lexmark Genesis. It really is a SmartSolution.  


Hasbros My3d Transform Iphones Into Viewmasters

Hasbros My3d Transform Iphones Into Viewmasters

This piece of kit looks extremely similar to a ViewMaster, but with a more up-to-date look and feel. The Hasbro My3D goes on sale exclusively at Target on April 3rd, and hits the shelves at other retailers in June. Hasbro's introduction into the 3D phenomenon arrives in the shape of My3D, which connects to your iPhone or iPod bringing your own entertainment choices to 3D life.

This viewer will retail at $35 and offers a good look at 3D technology, for minimal cost.

Hasbros My3d Transform Iphones Into Viewmasters

Uno Iii Streetbike Kicks Into Gear

Uno Iii Streetbike Kicks Into Gear

Our recent article on the UNO motorbike caused a stir, attracting lots of attention and being our most commented on gadget to date. Many debated if the bike was genuine, but let's put this discussion to bed and begin a new debate.

Let's look at the latest installment from the UNO team, aptly named the UNO III Streetbike. This bike looks incredible, and will surely help in impressing your friends, once you've gotten used to the controls. The UNO III Streetbike is not marketed towards kids, not exlusively down to the steep £8,500, but due to the fact that it does look genuinely quite dangerous. What makes this bike unique is its ability to switch between a two-wheeled dicycle into a three-wheeled sports bike. This can be done with a quick flick of a switch, and can be switched back again if neccessary just as easily.

The UNO III looks almost like some sort of transformer as it sits on its two back wheels, powered by internal gyros which control the stability of the bike, allowing it to remain upright and safe even through the sharpest of turns. As you build up speed, the third wheel folds out automagically, whilst the back wheels both slide backwards to convert the bike into a fully functioning street bike.

Charging up the bike will take approximately four hours, allowing for a 30 mile range to be enjoyed. In motorcycle mode, the bike can reach 30mph and in UNO mode the maximum speed that can be reached is 15mph.

Compuexpert Wow Keys For Iphone

Compuexpert Wow Keys For Iphone

Some of us prefer a conventional computer keyboard, whereas a select few of the modern age technology enthusiasts are now opting for touch screen devices. Well, for those who prefer touch screen, look away now, otherwise keep reading as this may be of interest to you.

CompuExpert have revealed their latest product, a keyboard which holds an iPhone and transforms it from a touch screen display into a more conventional QWERTY style set-up. Named Wow-Keys, the device was exclusively designed to favour the iPhone, which will also act as both a docking device for synchronisation and charging capabilities. Omnio technologies have developed the WOW-Keys product which performs as a nice little multi purpose machine.

The iPhone is an extremely powerful device, especially for its size, and utilising the full power can sometimes be awkward and fiddly. This neat little gadget allows you to hook it up to a monitor and unleash the true multitasking capabilities of the smartphone. Inputting text becomes a lot easier, especially with the extra iPhone hotkeys. The sychronisation with iTunes is a nice touch but it's really all about improving the time it takes to input text and information into the iPhone itself.

The WOW-keys will be available from stores from 24th May for $99.99


Dog Trainer To Avoid Your Pet Pulling Your Arm Off

Dog Trainer To Avoid Your Pet Pulling Your Arm Off

Taking your pet for a walk should be an enjoyable experience, not one which leaves your arms aching after your dog constantly running too far away, reaching the end of the dog lead. Some dogs simply will keep trying to pull themselves away from the lead, and depending on the size of the dog, this can be quite strainful on your arms.
There now exists a device called the Tug-Preventing Dog Trainer which looks to combat these dog walking issues. For $39.95, the ultrasonic device is designed to help train your dog when our for walks. The contraption is places between the collar and leash, and whenever the device senses a tug, it will emit an ultrasonic noise which only your dog will be able to hear, thus forcing it to realise that tugging is not worth it!

The noise becomes louder, based on the force of the tug and is customisable to four volume levels. The Dog Trainer is powered by two AAA batteries and we believe if you have a large dog, who likes to try and escape at every opportunity, then this handy little device is definitely worth the small investment.


Ikon Remote Control Buggy

Ikon Remote Control Buggy

A remote control toy that works with Apple products. Innovative toy company Wow Stuff! have launched a series of iKon Remote Control toys that are compatible with the iPhone/iPod, and also have the official Apple seal of approval.

  The iKon Buggy comes with an iKon Remote Control Dongle that plugs into the spare port on an iPhone, iPod, iPad or iTouch. Once this is installed, you can download the free app to turn the iPhone into an infra red controller. The Buggy is a great looking futuristic RC vehicle that's appealing to a broad age range of users.


+ The iKon Remote Control Buggy is compatible to use with Apple iPhone, iPad and iTouch/iPod products.
+ Remote Control Dongle to control the buggy
+ A fully licensed Apple product using its microchip technology

Armstar Bodyguard 9xi Hd01

Armstar Bodyguard 9xi Hd01

This looks like someone has amputated Batman's arm and stuffed an i-Phone inside, but it is actually the Armstar BodyGuard 9XI-HD01, a harmless version of Batman's weapon arm. The arm is made of cotton, Kevlar, as well as Nomax, a flame resistant fiber. It comes with an indentation to allow an iPhone to slot in neatly, and also charges the phone whilst it's sitting in there. Pretty neat.

The Bodyguard also comes with a 720p video camera, flashlight and a 300,000-volt stun gun for firing at any unwelcome intruders, making you feel a little more like a superhero. It can also charge other electronic devices through its Li-Ion battery pack.
The invention is not meant to be used in superhero situations, but was an idea thought up by Dave Brown after a string of mountain lion attacks around his Californian home. The arm can be bought in bulks of ten or more by contacting Armstar directly, but the price is yet to be disclosed publically. Batman beware, you have a worthy opponent!

Trikke Mobility Scooter

Trikke Mobility Scooter

Step aside Segway, there's a new mobility gadget in town. The Trikke functions using three wheels as opposed to two wheels like the majority of scooters available today, setting it apart from the rest.


The Trikke takes a little getting used to, but once you feel comfortable on it, you can up the pace, and start making sharper turns, converting the gadget into a fun and imaginative way to get around.

While its maximum speed is a modest 17mph, the device will usually travel at an average of 12mph, relying entirely on electric power with zero emissions. The Trikke can operate for 24 miles per charge so don't go planning any long journeys without packing the charger first. The battery plugs directly into the wall, and is easily interchangeable.

The Trikke can fold inside itself to save space when you take it with you. The experience does not come cheap though, with the 36 Volt lite costing $1,299 and the 3G Volt costing $1,899. The top end of the range comes in the form of the 48 Volt, which will set you back $2,199. More information can be obtained from their official website. 

Usb Cup Warmer

Usb Cup Warmer

With so much to see on the internet these days, it's a wonder we find time to eat and sleep – let alone finish our cuppa. Well we're not going to be limiting our Lolcats anytime soon. So for all those who are equally hard at work, we’ve found the USB Cup Warmer.

Especially handy if your boss keeps the office at a 'productive' 12 degrees, this ingenious device keeps your hot drinks hot for longer. Just plug it into your computer’s USB port and pop your cup on top. Thanks to the handy warming element inside, it'll give you all the time you need to LOL, ROFL, LMFAO or ROFLMFAO between slurps.

Product Features:

USB-powered hot plate
Fits cups and slim mugs
Temperature of hot drinks can be maintained at 40 degrees after an hour
Includes DC to USB Cable
Powered via USB from your PC or Mac
Low voltage (5V)
No driver installation required
This is an electrical item, do not splash with liquid
The hot plate gets hot, please use with caution
Cannot be used with plastic cups
This product is not a toy, keep out of reach of children

Scientists Discover Way to Predict Sunspots

Scientists Discover Way to Predict Sunspots

(Newser) – Maybe we'll eventually be able to cross off solar flares as a possible way the world ends. Scientists at Stanford say they've developed a system to predict dangerous sunspots two days before they erupt, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Using satellite data, they can detect the rumblings of solar storms deep beneath the surface. 

"It's long been our hope to see the storms of sunspots before they show up," says one NASA solar physicist. Solar flares and "mass coronal ejections" that accompany sunspots shoot ionized gasses toward the Earth at the speed of light, and can knock out power grids, keep planes grounded, and threaten astronauts. The hope is that scientists can now provide ample warning time to prepare for such events, though the new method still needs to be refined.

World's Biggest Plane to Rocket People into Space

World's Biggest Plane to Rocket People into Space

(Newser) – The world's biggest plane, with wings longer than a football field, is being built to launch astronauts and cargo into outer space. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and aerospace innovator Burt Rutan have teamed up to create the gargantuan aircraft, which will work by hauling a rocket high into the air and then blasting it into space, thus bypassing the need for a launch pad and saving on fuel, reports AP. They unveiled their plans yesterday. 



The project comes at a time when NASA has discontinued its shuttle program and engineering firms are vying to fill the gap in space flight technology. Allen says the special plane—which boasts twin fuselages, a 380-foot wingspan, and six 747 engines—will "keep America at the forefront of space exploration." The first unmanned tests should take place in 2016.


Russia Plans Moonwalk by 2030

Russia Plans Moonwalk by 2030

(Newser) – Russia will finally send a human to the moon. At least it's planning to—by 2030, according to a leaked document from Roskosmos, the Russian Space agency. The Russians have intermittently laid forth enthusiastic goals for space exploration in recent years, reports the Telegraph, but never with a set deadline for a moonwalk.
A moon journey could resuscitate the shaky Russian space program, which has seen its share of mishaps recently, including a series of satellites crashing last year and a botched Mars probe mission in January. The Soviets were the first nation to send a man to space more than 60 years ago, but they effectively shelved their moon ambitions after the US beat them there in 1969.

Astronauts Enter SpaceX Capsule Dragon, Report ‘New Car Smell’

Astronauts Enter SpaceX Capsule Dragon, Report ‘New Car Smell’ 

A day after the SpaceX unmanned Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station, astronauts floated aboard the world’s first privately owned supply ship.
Donald Pettit, NASA astronaut, was the first to go inside the docked capsule, according to Syracuse. Pettit noted that the Dragon could carry about as much cargo as his pickup truck in Houston, and that it smelled like a brand new car. He also stated:
“I spent quite a bit of time poking around in here this morning, just looking at the engineering and the layout, and I’m very pleased.”
The Space Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group, said in a statement, according to Syracuse, that:
“This event isn’t just a simple door opening between two spacecraft — it opens the door to a future in which U.S. industry can and will deliver huge benefits for U.S. space exploration.”
During a news conference on Saturday, Fox News reports that Pettit stated:
“This is kind of the equivalent of the golden spike. And one other interesting detail — nobody remembers who pounded that golden spike in. The important thing is to remember that the railroad was completed and was now open for use.”
NASA is handing over orbital delivery work to American business, in order to focus on bigger objective, such as getting astronauts to asteroids and Mars, according to Fox News. The space agency is hoping that the successful mission of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, will allow for ferry trips of astronauts to begin soon.
Fox News reports that SpaceX hopes its Dragon capsules will be carrying space station astronauts up and down from the ISS within three or four years.


Monday, 4 June 2012

Partial lunar eclipse

Partial lunar eclipse sets the stage for Venus transit

Earth's shadow covers up part of moon early Monday, then Venus has its day in the sun 
The historic transit of Venus across the sun Tuesday is a must-see for skywatchers, but observers shouldn't overlook another celestial event that comes just one day earlier — a partial lunar eclipse of the June full moon. 

On Tuesday, Venus will trek across the sun's face from Earth's perspective, marking the last such transit of Venus until 2117. In a sort of celestial warmup, the full moon will dive through Earth's shadow on Monday morning to produce a partial lunar eclipse that will be visible to observers throughout parts of North America, Asia and the Pacific region, weather permitting.
The lunar eclipse comes two weeks after the May 20 annular solar eclipse that enthralled skywatchers around the world, and that's no accident.

Solar eclipses are always accompanied by lunar eclipses, either two weeks before or two weeks after. The moon travels halfway in its orbit around Earth in that time, forming another straight line with our planet and the sun. (In solar eclipses, the moon blots out the sun, while lunar eclipses occur when Earth's shadow covers all or part of the moon.)
The same parts of the world that were treated to the May 20 "ring of fire" solar eclipse will thus be favorably placed for Monday's partial lunar eclipse. Much of central and western North America should get a good show, as should eastern Asia, Australia and the Pacific region. The full moon of June is known as the Strawberry Moon because it occurs during the short strawberry-harvesting season this month. [Partial Lunar Eclipse of June 4, 2012: Observer's Guide (Images)]
The eclipse begins in earnest at 6 a.m. ET, when the moon first contacts the umbra, the dark inner portion of Earth's shadow. The umbra might appear dark and relatively colorless to the naked eye, but binoculars or a telescope may show it glowing dimly orange, red or brown.
The eclipse peaks at 7:04 a.m. ET, when 37 percent of the moon will be in shadow, and ends an hour later, at 8:06 a.m. ET.

Observers in Europe will miss out on Monday's lunar eclipse, as will part of the U.S. East Coast, where the moon will set before it enters the dark umbra. Most viewers in the Pacific time zone, however, should be able to see a considerable portion of the two-hour eclipse.
Places on the other side of the International Date Line — such as Australia, New Zealand and Asia — will see the eclipse on Monday evening rather than Monday morning.
If you snap a great photo of the partial lunar eclipse and would like to share it with for a story or gallery, please send images and comments to managing editor Tariq Malik at You can also upload your picture for possible use on by following the instructions on the FirstPerson Web page for sharing sky sights .

Transit Of Venus

Transit Of Venus

On June the 8th, in the year 2004, a rare astronomical event will occur that has probably not been seen by anyone alive on the planet Earth today. It last occurred in the year 1882 - a transit of the planet Venus. Once of great interest to science, it now has an interest more historical, and a curiosity value that any rare event draws around itself. Many amateur and professional astronomers, as well as many 'just interested people' will travel to diverse, and hopefully cloud free, parts of the world to view this spectacle.
For those who miss this event, it will be repeated eight years later, on June 6 in the year 2012.
In Australia, most people will be able to view at least part of both transits, if the weather permits. And it is Australians for which this event has the greatest historical significance, more so than for any other people on the planet.
A transit of Venus is simply the passage of the planet Venus across the face of the Sun as seen from the Earth. Only two planets can ever be seen transiting the face of the Sun. These are Mercury and Venus, the only two planets that have orbits closer to the Sun than the orbit of the Earth. Planets, such as Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto all have orbits beyond that of the Earth, and so can never come between the Earth and the Sun.

Orbits of the four inner planets
Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, and because of this, transits of Mercury across the solar disc are more common than are those of Venus. On the average, there are approximately 15 transits of Mercury per century, the last two being on May 6, 2003 and November 15, 1999. In contrast, there are at most 2 transits of Venus per century. The table below contains some information about the three closest planets to the Sun (including the Earth). This can be useful in understanding why and when planetary transits occur. The first column lists the planet name, the second its diameter in kilometres. We can see that Venus is about the same size as the earth, while Mercury is substantially smaller. The third column lists the time in (Earth) days that it takes for the planet to complete one orbit around the Sun - this is the length of the planet's year. The fourth column is the average distance of the planet from the Sun.
The last two columns are a little more difficult to understand, but in them lies the secret of the scarcity of planetary transits. The orbital inclination is the tilt of the planet's orbit with respect to the Earth's orbit, and the eccentricity measures the 'circularity' of the orbit. The closer this number is to zero, the more the orbit approaches a perfect circle.

(in km)
from Sun-km
Mercury 4,90088 days 58 million7.0 deg0.206
Venus 12,100225 days 108 million3.4 deg0.007
Earth 12,800365 days 150 million0.0 deg0.017
You don't need to worry too much about these numbers to be able to appreciate the transit of Venus, but we will mention them later, when we discuss when and why a transit occurs. WHEN WILL THE TRANSITS OCCUR?
In the 21st century, the first transit of Venus will occur on June 8, 2004. The start and end times of the transit depend by several minutes on your position on the Earth's surface, but on average the start time will be around 05:13 UT and the end time will be near 11:26 UT, where UT stands for Universal Time. This is the time at zero degrees longitude (and was formerly known as Greenwich Mean Time).
The second transit will occur on June 5/6, 2012.
There are four points in time that astronomers refer to when describing the progress of the transit. First contact is when the limb (edge) of Venus just touches the limb of the Sun. Second contact is when all the disc of Venus first sits just inside the solar disc. Third and fourth contacts are similar positions when Venus is egressing from the Sun. That is, at third contact, the whole disc of Venus just lies inside the solar disc prior to passing out of the disc. And lastly, fourth contact is when the limbs of Venus and the Sun are just touching prior to Venus breaking away out into the blackness of space. These four contact points are illustrated in the diagram below.

Transit contact points
Note that all these points are just apparent contacts as seen from the Earth. Venus is never actually anywhere near the Sun, being about 108 million kilometres distant. The following table gives the times (both in Universal Time and local time) for the relevant contact points for some of Australia's capital cities. A dash indicates that the point is not visible from that location. For instance, sunset occurs before third and fourth contacts for all of Australia in the 2004 transit.

CITYFirst Contact Second ContactSunset
NAMEUT / LT UT / LTLocal Time
Adelaide05:08 / 14:38 05:27 / 14:5717:11
Brisbane05:07 / 15:07 05:26 / 15:2617:00
Melbourne05:08 / 15:08 05:26 / 15:2617:08
Sydney05:07 / 15:07 05:26 / 15:2616:53
Perth05:10 / 13:10 05:28 / 13:2817:19
VISIBILITY IN 2004 The complete transit will not be visible from every part of the world. Those favoured to see the whole 6 plus hours of the phenomenon include all of Europe, most of Asia, and a large part of (eastern) Africa. In Australia, we will not see the end of the event, as the Sun will set on our land before that occurs. Unfortunately, none of the transit will be visible to people in the western half of the USA.
People living on North West Cape, Western Australia will be able to view the transit for the longest period of time, and those in southern Tasmania for the shortest period of time of all inhabitants of Australia. Unfortunately, New Zealanders will mostly be in the dark, as the transit occurs just on sunset for those in Auckland, and after sunset for those in the South Island.
And we must remember of course, that visibility is not only dependent upon where we live. The weather will also play a large part in who gets to watch the event.

1st Contact
2nd Contact
3rd Contact
4th Contact
Adelaide22:16 / 07:4622:34 / 08:0404:27 / 13:5704:45 / 14:15
Brisbane22:16 / 08:1622:34 / 08:3404:26 / 14:2604:44 / 14:44
Hobart22:16 / 08:1622:34 / 08:3404:27 / 14:2704:45 / 14:45
Melbourne22:16 / 08:1622:34 / 08:3404:27 / 14:2704:45 / 14:45
Perthbefore sunrisebefore sunrise04:29 / 12:2904:47 / 12:47
Sydney22:16 / 08:1622:34 / 08:3404:25 / 14:2504:44 / 14:44
Auckland22:16 / 10:1622:34 / 10:34 04:25 / 16:2504:43 / 16:43
Christchurch22:16 / 10:1622:34 / 10:3404:26 / 16:2604:44 / 16:44
VISIBILITY IN 2012 The 2012 transit of Venus will be visible in its entirety from all Australian states with the exception of Western Australia. It will also be fully visible from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. In Western Australia the first part of the transit will occur prior to local sunrise.
As this transit, like that of 2004, will occur in the Austral winter, weather will most likely be the deciding factor in transit visibility. Alice Springs may well be the best place to view the event because of this factor.
People in Portugal, western Spain, western Africa, eastern South America and Antarctica will not be able to observe any part of the transit.
Weather permitting, anyone living on Wake Island in the western Pacific Ocean, will have the best view of the transit.
Mercury and Earth come into [inferior] conjunction (or closest approach) every 116 days, and if Mercury's orbit was not tilted to the orbit of the earth, we would expect to see a transit of Mercury across the Solar disc every 116 days. But the Mercurian orbit is tilted by 7 degrees to the plane of the Earth's orbit, and so Mercury passes to the north or the south of the Sun during most conjunctions.
Exactly the same thing happens in the case of Venus. The synodic period of Venus as observed from Earth (that is, the time between one conjunction and the next) is about 584 days (compared with 116 days for Mercury). However, because the orbit of Venus it tilted at 3.4 degrees with respect to the Earth's orbit, during most of these conjunctions, Venus passes either to the north or to the south of the Sun. Only when Venus is close to a node (the point at which the Venusian orbit crosses the plane of the Earth's orbit) will a transit of Venus be visible to people on the Earth. Now, Venus has both an ascending node and a descending node. The former is when Venus is travelling from south to north in its orbital motion, and the latter is when it is proceeding from north to south.

Transit geometry
The existence of these two nodes explains the strange separation in time of transit events. At the present, Venus passes its descending node on June 7, and the ascending node on December 8. There are commonly 2 transits spaced about 8 years apart, based on the same node, and these are separated by the next pair on the opposite node after an interval of either 105.5 or 121.5 years, as can be seen in the table below. The following table gives the dates for past and future transits of Venus within a few hundred years of our present date. Dates and times are all referenced to Universal Time. Eastern Australian Standard Time is UT plus 10 hours. Western Australian Standard Time is UT plus 8 hours. Note that some transits go over the UT day boundary. In this case, the start time refers to the first date, and the end time refers to the second date.

DATE(S)Start (UT) End (UT)
7 Dec 163103:5106:47
4 Dec 163914:5621:54
6 Jun 176102:0208:37
3-4 Jun 176919:1501:35
9 Dec 187401:4906:26
6 Dec 188213:5720:25
8 Jun 200405:1311:26
5-6 Jun 201222:0904:49
10-11 Dec 211723:5805:38
8 Dec 212513:1418:48
11 Jun 224708:4114:25
9 Jun 225500:5007:50
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A TRANSIT? There were no transits of Venus that occurred in the last (20th) century. And although it is possible for a person with good eyesight to view a Venusian transit (using a safe filter, but without a telescope), it is thought that the first transits ever to be observed were those of the 1600's. And in fact, the transits of 1761 and 1769 were the first to be predicted well in advance, and were thus the first to be generally observed by large numbers of people.
It was also in the 18th century that astronomers first realised that a transit of Venus offered a unique opportunity to measure the size of the solar system, and thus the distance of the Earth from the Sun. Up until that time, only the relative distances from the Earth to the Sun and to the other planets were known. These come from a measurement of orbital periods (which involve time measurement - something that could be done very accurately), and an application of the laws of planetary motion expounded by Kepler around 1610. However, not one absolute distance was known with any accuracy. And once one absolute distance was found, all the others could be easily computed.

Cole's Orrery
The image above shows the model of the orbit of Venus, relative to the Earth, made by Benjamin Cole in London to explain the transit of Venus to the Fellows of the Royal Society before 1761 (image credit: Science Museum, London). The idea of using a transit of Venus to measure the distance to the Sun is one of parallax. When you view an object against a distant background, the apparent position of the object changes according to your position. By measuring the different paths that Venus appears to take across the face of the Sun from different locations on the Earth's surface, one can compute the distance from the Earth to the Sun. This was first done with observations obtained during the 1761 and 1769 transits, and values obtained therefrom stood for over a century. Nowadays, we obtain this distance to an accuracy of a few metres using radar techniques (bouncing radar pulses off Venus, and other solar system bodies), and this accuracy far exceeds anything we could calculate from transit measurements. The value of a Venus transit is now only of historical scientific interest.
However, to all Australians, a transit of Venus is of greater historical significance than to most other peoples. For it was to observe the 1769 transit of Venus that Captain James Cook was given orders from the British Admiralty to sail to the island of Tahiti in the south pacific ocean. Following transit measurements taken there, he was then instructed by secret sealed orders to proceed to investigate the Great South Land to the west. The Dutch and Portuguese had touched upon the western coast of this land at previous times, and had uniformly declared it unfit for human habitation. Cook, in exploring the eastern coast, found a land of much greater opportunity, and so it was that in 1770 he claimed the whole of the eastern part of what we now know to be Australia, and what he titled New South Wales (from Cape York to the south of the continent), for the British Crown. Were it not for the 1769 transit of Venus, the history of Australia would be very different from what it became in the years following this historic event. You and I would likely not be here, and our replacements might not be speaking English.

James Cook 1773 Endeavour
Captain James Cook Cook's ship Endeavor
Fort Venus Observatory
Fort Venus on Tahiti Cook's Observatory in Fort Venus
HOW TO OBSERVE THE TRANSIT There are many ways to observe the transit of Venus. However, you must be aware of basic safety precautions. NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN AT ANY TIME. Looking directly at the Sun at any time is likely to result in permanent blindness. You should also never look at the Sun through binoculars or a telescope (or any optical instrument), unless an appropriate safe solar filter has been correctly installed.
Many web sites will carry near real time images of the Sun showing the progression of the transit. See the links section below for further information.
However, many people will want to view the transit themselves. The safest way to do this is through projection of the solar image onto a white screen. Although pinhole projection is very cheap and is useful for viewing eclipses, it is really worthless for viewing the transit of Venus (despite what some websites are saying). This is because pinhole projection of any practical size will not provide sufficient resolution for you to be able to even see the disc of Venus against the Sun.

On June 8, 2004, the Sun will subtend an angle of 1890 arc seconds or 31.5 arc minutes to an observer on the Earth. This is just a little over half a degree. In contrast, Venus will only subtend an angle of about 58 seconds of arc. This is 1/32 or about 0.03 times the apparent diameter of the Sun. To observe Venus against the solar disc in projection, a small telescope (or a pair of binoculars) will be needed. Almost any small telescope will do - these are often available from department stores for $10 to $30. The setup is shown in the diagram below. A shade made out of cardboard or light plywood has a small hole cut in the centre, and the telescope or binoculars are affixed behind this hole. This is pointed toward the Sun and the focus of the telescope is adjusted so that a sharp image of the Sun is seen on the screen (white cardboard or white paper on plywood) placed at some distance behind the eyepiece. Adjust the distances between the telescope and screen so that an image of around 50 millimetres (or larger) in diameter is obtained. This will then provide sufficient resolution to see Venus move across the face of the Sun. You will find it a lot easier to handle if you mount the shade and screen on a framework so that they can be moved together to track the Sun as it moves across the sky. Projection viewing
The following image shows a projection device that was constructed using plywood and two lenses. The objective lens was removed from an old photocopier, and the eyepiece or projection lens was obtained from a discarded microfiche reader (which also provided the focusing tube).

Solar projector
If you don't feel up to making a projection device, it is just possible to view the transit through a SAFE solar filter. There are basically only two types of solar filter that you should consider. The first are mylar filters sold by astronomy shops specifically for solar viewing. Look in the Australian "Sky and Space" magazine (often available at newsagents) for addresses of astronomy suppliers. The second type of filter is a shade 14 welder's filter. Do not be tempted to use anything less than a shade 14 (such as the commonly available shade 12 used in most arc welding). A hardware shop or engineering supply shop may be able to order shade 14 filters for you. There are basically two types. The cheaper type ($A5) made of glass will give the Sun a greenish look, and may show distortions in the solar image, because the glass is not optical quality. The better quality filters are gold coated on plastic (and cost around $A30), and sometimes go under the name "Omniview". This latter filter gives a slight orange cast to the Sun, which looks more natural. Whatever filter you use, look after it carefully. Do not allow it be scratched or damaged in any way, as this can compromise your safety. It is a very good idea to mount whatever filter you buy onto a mask which has sides that cover the top and sides of your face. This is particularly important if children are going to be using the device, as it makes it much less likely that anyone will be tempted to "take a peek" at the Sun without the filter. REMEMBER, IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE YOUR EQUIPMENT SAFE FOR ALL WHO OBSERVE WITH IT. We can only give advice. Your eyesight, and the eyesight of your friends and family is very precious, and cannot be recovered once it is gone!!
The image below shows a mask mounted welding filter that is safe for solar viewing.

Solar viewer
If you are planning to view the Sun with only a filter, you will need good eyesight to be able to see the black spot of Venus on the Sun's disc. At a diameter or only 58 arcseconds, it is close to the resolution limit of the unaided eye. It is possible to conduct a simulation of the transit to evaluate whether or not you will be able to see Venus directly through a filter. Take a sheet of white cardboard and cut out a circle 300 millimetres in diameter, and paste this onto a large piece of dark cardboard. This disc will represent the Sun. Within this white disc draw a small circle only 9 mm in diameter and colour it dark black. Alternatively, cut off a 9 mm circle of black cardboard, and paste it onto the white disc. This small dark circle represents Venus. Place the dark cardboard with the white disc outside in the sunlight so that it stands nearly vertically. Stand at a distance of 33 metres from the disc. From this distance you are seeing the Sun and Venus as they will appear. More detail on this facet of the transit is discussed later.
It is also possible to photograph the event, although for a standard 35 mm camera, a 300 mm telephoto lens is about the smallest useful size to allow you to be able to see Venus. You also have the problem of pointing the camera without looking through the viewfinder. Use a slow speed film, a small aperture and a fast shutter speed. You need to experiment before the actual day of the transit. CCD cameras can also be used, but these should have an appropriate filter placed in front of the lens. You might like to try a welder's shade 14 filter as mentioned above for visual observations. We have used a small CCD video camera attached to a surplus 300mm telephoto lens and welder's filter to obtain good images of the Sun which may be displayed on a TV monitor. This provides safe viewing for many people.
The most interesting times of a transit are probably the times around the start and end of the transit. Two main optical effects have been reported during previous transits of Venus.
One of these effects is due to the fact that Venus has a substantial atmosphere (and thus this effect is not seen during a Mercury transit, as Mercury has no atmosphere). This effect is seen when Venus is partially overlapping the Sun. The part of the planet that is not on the solar disc is seen to be surrounded by a ring of light. This is due to refraction of sunlight from behind and around the dark limb. This effect is called the radiant aureole effect.
The second effect is seen to occur just after second contact, and also just before third contact, when a small dark shape may be seen to appear connecting the disc of Venus with the solar limb. This shape may appear like a drop, and is know as the black drop effect. It is thought that this effect is mostly due to the Earth's atmosphere smearing or blurring the image. This effect makes it very difficult to time the transit accurately.
The total duration of the 2004 transit is 6.2 hours (although Australians will not see the end of the transit), and Venus will move very slowly across the face of the Sun. The motion will not immediately be apparent. Although there most probably will be some small sunspots visible on the Sun at the time of this transit, Venus is not likely to pass anywhere near them, as this transit occurs across a chord which is closer to the south pole of the Sun than it is to the solar disc centre. (Sunspots tend to occur in bands close to the solar equator.) The view may be more interesting in the light of H-alpha, as Venus may pass near a chromospheric feature such as a dark ribbon like filament. If it does pass near such features, its motion will be more apparent (because of the reference point this provides).
There are many web sites that contain information on the transit of Venus. Here are some links that provide information before the event and images during the event: This web site <> will provide updated images every 5 minutes from Learmonth Solar Observatory in Western Australia if clouds permit. There will be two image streams, one a white light image from the National Solar Observatory GONG site at Learmonth, and the other a hydrogen alpha image (which shows the solar chromosphere) taken with the main Observatory 25cm refractor. The GONG web site at the National Solar Observatory in Tucson will provide updated images from six GONG sites around the globe. The web site is at <>. The NASA web site at <> provides much useful material on the transit, including times of the transit for many places around the world. Dr Udo Backhaus at the University of Essen has an excellent Venus transit site at <> for those people who want to learn how the transit may be used to measure the distance to the Sun.
You can create your own simulation of the transit of Venus on 8 June 2004, prior to the event.
Print out the image below. This shows a simulated Sun against a black background, and within the solar disc is a small black circle, which represents the size of Venus as it will be seen against the Sun, during the actual transit. Measure the diameter of the simulated Sun on your printout and multiply this value by 109. The result is the distance from which you must view the image. For example, if the diameter of the Sun on the printed image is 14.5 cm, we multiply this by 109 which gives 1580 cm or 15.8 metres. This is close enough to 16 metres. Tape the printed image to a wall, and move back a distance of 16 metres. This then is how the Sun and Venus will appear to you looking through a SAFE solar filter. (DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN WITH THE UNPROTECTED EYE !!! ).

Venus transit simulated image
2004 TRANSIT OBSERVATIONS The information presented here was taken at the Learmonth Solar Observatory on North West Cape, Western Australia, and is presented courtesy of IPS Radio and Space Services, the Australian Space Weather Agency.

2004 transit of Venus
This image of the Sun showing the transit of Venus on June 8, 2004, was taken with a 35mm camera fitted with a 600mm telephoto lens. The disc of Venus, shown in silhouette against the solar surface has an angular diameter of just under one minute of arc, which is about 1/32 the apparent diameter of the Sun. A neutral density filter was used to reduce the Sun's light to acceptable levels.
This image is of a white light projection of the Sun. The black drop effect is due to turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere, and we found that it is only seen in wideband (unfiltered or white-light) views of the Sun. It was not seen in H-alpha (narrowband) imagery.
2004 transit - 2nd contact
Note that the radiant aureole effect (due to the Venusian atmosphere) was not observed at Learmonth Solar Observatory.
The diagram below shows a possible equipment setup for recording video and still images of a transit of Venus, as well as allowing for integrated light (full-disc) photometry.

One schema for recording a transit of Venus
NOTE ON GROUND-BASED SOLAR PHOTOMETRY Venus in solar transit The ratio of the apparent Venusian to Solar diameters is d/D = 1/32.
The reduction in luminosity δL due to the obscuration of a small part of the solar disc by Venus is given by:
δL / L = (d / D)2 = (1/32)2 = 0.00098
This is approximately 0.1%.
If the solar photometer output is approximately 3 V (and proportional to the incident solar flux) then a standard 4000 count digital multimeter is barely adequate to even hope to detect this small a fluctuation ( ie a maximum variation of 3 in the least significant digit (eg 3.102). A 40,000 count DMM would be more appropriate (eg 3.1023).
However, experience with wideband (whitelight) photometers at Learmonth Solar Observatory has shown that atmospheric transparency variations will exceed the 0.1% level. It is thus very unlikely that ground-based wideband solar photometry will detect the presence of Venus in transit across the Sun. Given this, it is inconceivable that any Venusian atmospheric effects will be detectable by such photometry.
Space-based 'Sun as a star' photometers (eg cavity radiometers aboard several spacecraft) should detect the transit, but whether they would record the 'radiant aureole' effect or any other Venusian atmospheric effect is debatable.

Century’s last transit

This century’s last transit

Tomorrow you will be able to witness a celestial spectacle no one will ever see again this century: a transit of Venus. While Venus starts to slowly pass between Earth and Sun, millions of people will look in awe at the planet’s silhouette against the brilliant solar disk, beholding the actual clockwork movement of our solar system. It’s one of the most infrequent of planetary alignments, and its rarity alone should already justify your own observation of the transit. If you miss this one, you will have to wait another 105 years until the snow is falling in December 2117.
Because of its rarity, viewing the transit yourself not only connects you to the hundreds of astronomers in history who set out on perilous journeys to measure the Sun’s distance using the transit of Venus, but also to your descendants who will see it again in the next century: it will make you part of a chain of privileged people to whom Venus reveals her black profile backdropped by the solar disk.
There are four distinct stages of the transit: when Venus starts to move unto the solar disk (1) there will become visible a small black dent on the solar limb, which will grow larger when time passes by. After nearly 18 minutes, the disk of Venus is on the solar disk in its entirety (2), touching the solar limb on the inside. From then on Venus parades in about seven hours to the other side of the solar disk, where the planet will touch the solar limb first on the inside (3). Just 18 minutes later the shadow of Venus will have left the solar disk once more (4) – the transit is over.
Not all stages might be visible from where you are. Find out which part of the transit you can see using our calculator of local transit times.

During the stages at the start and end of the transit, two special phenomena may be seen. While Venus is partly off the solar disk (1 and 4), light scattered by the planet’s dense atmosphere will produce a thin, luminous ring around the silhouette. This effect, called the aureole, was already seen during the 1761 transit of Venus and has helped astronomers to investigate the composition of the atmosphere. Tomorrow astronomers will yet again turn their instruments to the aureole to analyse the structure of the Cytherean atmosphere.
When Venus touches the solar limb on the inside (2 and 3) a greyish haze between the two limbs may become apparent, depending on the quality of the applied optics. In the 18th century this optical effect caused the round shape of Venus to deform extremely, hence its name black drop effect. With larger telescopes the effect is less manifest.

Image credits: left image by Lorenzo Comolli, right image by Paul Dolk.
Whenever you have the chance, you should observe the transit yourself. But be careful: only look at the sun with proper eye protection, on pain of permanent loss of sight. Once safety precautions are met, you can enjoy the transit of Venus in several ways. Just peering through a telescope and discerning the small black dot of Venus can be a humbling experience: realising that Venus is about the same size of our own planet, our smallness in the vast Universe becomes readily visible before our own eyes. But there’s more you can do.
  • Use our free phone app to join a collective experiment to measure the Sun’s distance.
  • Picture the transit, either by sketching or photographing, and upload your creations to our gallery by sending it to
  • Enter Southern Stars’ Venus Transit Challenge, a photo contest for mobile devices.
  • Twitter about what you come across (use hashtags #tov2012 or #venustransit). The results of all these activities can be followed live using Esri’s web app, showing an interactive map with all observations recorded by users of the phone app, as well as tweets, pictures and videos appearing in social media.
  • Even if you’re clouded out, or if the transit isn’t visible from where you live, there are still many online viewing options to follow the event.

Out of Diaries: 3 June 1769

On 3 June 1769, as one location after another emerged from night to day, astronomers and amateurs across the world braced themselves. It was the last transit that any of them would ever be able to watch.
With more than eighty observers at thirty viewing stations in Britain and sixteen abroad (not counting the North American colonies), the British were clearly in the lead, followed by the French with almost fifty astronomers at eighteen locations in France and five overseas. There were astronomers in nine German towns, and Dutch observers positioned in Leiden. The Swedes were also prepared. Pehr Willhelm Wargentin had recruited twenty-one observers at nine locations in Sweden and Lapland. Anders Planman was safely installed in his observatory in Kajana and Fredrik Mallet – despite the fierce winter conditions and his bad mood – had made it to Pello on 12 May, late, but in time.
Eighteen astronomers were stationed at ten locations on Russian soil and on the North American continent forty-seven observers anticipated Venus’s appearance – from the local administrator of a mine near Mexico City to the ‘Surveyor-General of Lands for the Northern District’ in Quebec. More than thirty observers had spread out over twelve locations along the East Coast.
In Tahiti, after worrying about the cloudy skies, Captain Cook and his crew awoke to a clear sky and watched the black dot moving across the sun for six long hours. Chappe d’Auteroche also succeeded to view the transit in Baja California, as did Maximilian Hell in Vardø. In Pennsylvania, the American astronomer David Rittenhouse, couldn’t believe his luck when he woke early that day and saw the sky gleaming, as he described it, with a ‘purity of atmosphere’. Then just after two o’clock in the afternoon, as Venus readied herself to traverse the Sun, Rittenhouse became so over-excited that he collapsed and fainted, missing the beginning of the most important event of his scientific life.
There were observers everywhere. Catherine the Great played cards all night with her favourite courtiers so that they would not fall asleep and miss the transit. King George III was in his new observatory in Kew and in Jakarta a wealthy Dutch priest had built a lavish eighty–foot high observatory from where he viewed the transit. Le Gentil, however, in Pondicherry saw only clouds – having spent years chasing Venus he had failed to make any successful observations of the first and the second transit.
Around 250 official observers at 130 locations had waited for Venus. Now it was time to collect the results.


50 Years Ago: Fantasy and SciFi

Cover of Fantasy and Science Fiction
In June 1962, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction published a story entitled “The Transit of Venus” by Miriam Allen de Ford. The editor’s preface sets the stage:
It was to observe one sort of Transit of Venus that Captain Cooke  originally visited Tahiti — where, like Captain Bligh, who came there not long after, he had a devil of a time keeping his men from going native for love of local beauty and despite that need for Discipline which officials in every age and place are so certain is so good for us. Miriam Allen de Ford (whose infinite variety age cannot wither) departs for a different Venerian — and fie upon those who have it, Venusian — transit upon a more distant island, when and where, however, similar problems still exist.
Paul Doherty
Paul Doherty of Exploratorium
Despite its suggestive name, the magazine delves into straight science as well. Transit of Venus enthusiast Paul Doherty of the Exploratorium paired with Pat Murphy to write a story for the magazine in the January/February 2011 issue under the title “Science“. In it they feature historic expeditions, the black drop effect, exoplanets, and the Kepler mission. With a nod to the magazine’s readership they finish by noting,
Science fiction writers have been speculating about life on other planets for more than a hundred years (with Jules Verne writing about Moon
men back in 1865). We figure it’s about time that science caught up..

The transit from Down Under

The position of the Sun and Venus from the beginning to the end of the transit as seen from Adelaide. Drawing Nick Lomb
From New Zealand and from most of Australia all the six and a half hours of the 2012 transit of Venus is visible, weather permitting. From Western Australia the transit will already be underway as the Sun rises. Just because the transit is visible from beginning to end does not, however, mean that it will be easy to see all of the transit, for June is winter in the Southern Hemisphere and the Sun will be low in the sky.
As the Sun will be low in the sky prior planning is essential to see the required phases of the transit. For those who just want to see Venus on the Sun the best time will be in the middle of the transit when Venus is well inside the Sun and relatively high in the sky. It will be possible to take interesting photos at that time, especially if there are wisps of cloud around to give a sense of drama.

The position of the Sun and Venus from the beginning to the end of the transit as seen from Melbourne. Drawing Nick Lomb
Historically the more interesting phenomena occur at the beginning of the transit (ingress) as Venus moves onto the disc of the Sun and at the end of the transit (egress) as Venus moves off the Sun. The infamous black drop effect is a dark linkage joining the dark silhouette of Venus to the inside edge of the Sun at about the time of second and third contacts – when Venus appears to touch the inside edge of the Sun at ingress and then at egress. For James Cook and many other observers of transit in past centuries this effect made it difficult to time the contacts as accurately as they wanted.
Today we know that this effect depends on factors such as the size and quality of the telescope being used and the atmospheric conditions. With the Sun low in the sky during ingress and/or egress as seen from Australia and New Zealand there is a strong likelihood that some observers will witness the black drop effect. That will be an interesting and exciting link to the past.

The position of the Sun and Venus from the beginning to the end of the transit as seen from Sydney. Drawing Nick Lomb
From Adelaide the transit begins about half an hour after sunrise so the Sun is very low in the sky at that time. For those who want to see the ingress, clouds permitting, then a suitable location with good sightlines towards the north-east has to be found in advance. As at that time of the year the Sun does not change position much from day to day, it is possible to check possible observing spots a few days before the transit with the actual Sun.
As we move eastwards across the continent to Melbourne, we find that the Sun is a little higher, but still low in the sky at ingress. Conversely, at egress the Sun is starting to move towards the horizon. Further east from Sydney, again the Sun appears a little higher in the sky at ingress, but still low enough to be easily blocked by trees or houses.
It should be noted that ingress takes about 18 minutes and egress the same time, so that there is almost six hours in between them. This gives time to move observing locations between ingress and egress, if necessary. Some people may even want to go to a third location for the in-between time with Venus fully on the Sun.

The position of the Sun and Venus from the beginning to the end of the transit as seen from Auckland, New Zealand. Drawing Nick Lomb
Moving across the Tasman to New Zealand we find that from Auckland the Sun is quite acceptably high at the beginning of the transit. However, as there is always a price to pay for any gain, the Sun is very close to the horizon at the end of the transit.
It is dangerous to look directly at the Sun as permanent eye damage can occur. See Tim Cole’s post for the right word on eye safety. Still unless you really know what you are doing, it is best to check if there are transit viewing sessions held by your local observatory, planetarium or amateur astronomical society and join them if you can.

Where did the black drop go?

One of the most famous phenomena to look for during the transit of Venus on June 5/6 is the black drop effect. First noticed in 1761, this optical effect distorted the shape of the silhouette of Venus when the planet touched the solar limb on the inside, thus hampering the timing of the moment of contact. In the 18th century the shape of Venus was highly distorted, and the appearance of the effect lead to the metaphorical term ‘black drop’ (in latin ‘gutta nigra’). In the 19th century however, the drawings of the black drop effect look more like a greyish hue between the limbs of Venus and the sun, and reports of the last transit of Venus in 2004 show that many observers didn’t see the effect at all. What happened to the black drop effect? Where did it go?

It’s the cause of the effect that explains why the black drop was so evident during the 1761 and 1769 transits of Venus, and much less manifest in the later transits of 1874, 1882 and 2004. The black drop effect is produced primarily by the telescope: by blurring the image, the limbs of Venus and the sun are softened, creating a darker shade between the limbs that becomes the more visible the more the telescope blurs the image. Larger telescopes have sharper images, thus making the black drop effect less clear. So, it’s the better optics that made the black drop effect disappear in later years!
To be able to fully appreciate the reports of the 18th century astronomers on the black drop, it’s important to watch the transit with telescopes from that era. Randall Rosenfeld coordinates an experiment in which the upcoming transit will be observed with instruments from the late 1700s. It will help us to get a visual representation of the often only verbalised accounts. If you happen to own an antique telescope, join Randall and become a participant in experimental archaeology.
And if you don’t own antiques, just be on the lookout for the black drop effect, whether it will appear as a distortion of the Venus circular shape or will merely be a greyish hue.


Halley’s outrageous statement

There is no figure in transit history more significant than the second Astronomer Royal, the Rev’d Dr. Edmund Halley (1656-1742). His writings are of more than ‘mere’ historical interest, as they have framed the shape of the transit enterprise since the late 17th century. Some serious amateur observers and modern scientists have taken inspiration from his words. On the modern transit site of NASA’s Mr. Eclipse Guy (Fred Espenak) one can even find a late-Georgian ‘Englishing’ of Halley’s epochal 1716 paper on the solar parallax. Halley’s words are worth reading and re-reading, as much for the fruitful cultural echoes they may evoke, as for the ideas for modern science they may spark.

Halley’s texts may also harbour hidden surprises.
Astronomical writings in the 17th century were produced in an intellectual culture which favoured multi-dimensionality of meaning. A text was a layer cake, capable of conveying multiple significations by operating on several planes simultaneously. In this the ‘Scientific Revolution’ was continuing a practice inherited from Late-Antiquity and the Middle Ages. That venerable and vigorous inheritance placed astronomy in Halley’s day and for long after within the republic of letters, and not apart from it. Astronomers had a lively understanding of the classical allusions which permeated their Republic of Letters. Physical science decently clothed in ancient literary gestures was the style in which things were done, but it was more than that, for that vesture clothed a conceptual reality. The classical goddess Venus was the planet Venus.
In one of Halley’s most frequently repeated quotes, he states that the transit of Venus “is by far the noblest sight among astronomical sights”. We are told that he was moved to say this because the phenomenon gave the opportunity to measure the solar parallax with unprecedented accuracy. That is true, but it is not the whole story, for rarely are we given the full context. Halley is also telling a joke, which according to present lights is politically incorrect.
The full passage is:
Venus, in as much as she is the most beautiful of all the heavenly bodies—after the fashion of her sex—is not afraid to appear bereft of both borrowed attire, and alien lustre. This, in fact, is by far the noblest sight among astronomical sights, as impressive as the secular games… Through observing this unparalleled sight it will be possible to fix the distance of the Sun from the Earth with the utmost certitude (Venus quamvis syderum omnium speciosissima, more sexus sui, sine mutuato cultu ac splendore asscititio in conspectum prodire veretur: Hoc etenim spectaculum inter Astronomica longe nobilissimum, instar Ludorum secularium… Unico vero hos Observato summa cum certitudine distantiam Solis a Terra determinari posse…; De visibili conjunctione inferiorum planetarum cum Sole, Dissertatio astronomica, in Philosophical Transactions 16 [1691], 511-522, at p., 519, trs. RAR).
What is he saying?
When Venus is on the solar disc, she does not shine by borrowed light from the Sun, that is, she is bold and brazen enough to willingly appear to all in the sky without any clothes (“is not afraid to appear bereft of both borrowed attire, and alien lustre”). So when Halley says “This, in fact, is by far the noblest sight among astronomical sights” he is saying that “Starring through a telescope at Venus, the nude goddess of love, and a renowned beauty, is by far the noblest sight among astronomical sights!”. It’s a joke none of his learned colleagues could have missed.
Astronomical voyeurism, indeed. Horrocks said something similar in the aftermath of the 1639 transit:
This telescope liberates the pleasing face of Venus, and exposes her magnificent form freed from the excessive solar light with its rays, and her body from the shadows (Hic [tubus] gratam Veneris faciem nimiaque superbam/ Luce suis nudat radiis, corpusque tenebris/ Vindicat…; Johannis Hevelii Mercurius in Sole visus Gedani… Venus In Sole pariter visa… a Jeremia Horroxio [Gedani: Autoris typis, et sumptibus, 1662], pp. 111-145, at 114, trs. RAR. The Whatton translation of 1859 is unreliable).
The astronomers only  have themselves to blame for the 18th-century satirists likening them to peeping Toms.
I will, nonetheless, join the ranks of the Toms peeping heavenwards on June 5th-6th. I’ll be in good company.

World wide map of the transit

The transit of Venus will soon captivate the world. Millions of people will be turning to the Internet to experience this rare event. One popular way to view the transit will be through live video streams from telescopes. Another way to learn and share experiences about the transit is through one of our oldest story-telling devices: the map.
Maps have figured prominently in the history of the transit of Venus. In 1760, Joseph-Nicolas Delisle created an influential transit map that guided many of the international expeditions of 1761 and 1769. In the late 19th century, Richard Anthony Proctor drafted a series of maps and diagrams that explained the geometry of the transit to the public. Many other examples can be seen in this archive of historical maps.
It is now our turn to tell our stories of the transit of Venus through maps.

Opening page of the Transit of Venus web app at
This new transit of Venus web app has just gone live at and invites you to learn about the transit, see observations in real time, and share your experiences of this special and rare event. The web app is a dynamic and participatory platform that offers these ways to encounter the transit and interact with others:
  • You can find where and when the transit occurs around the world
  • You can view contact timing observations from the VenusTransit smartphone app in near real-time on transit day and compare observed contact times with predicted contact times (most of the timing differences can be attributed to the black drop effect)
  • You can find tweets, pictures, and videos of transit of Venus activities on the map and share your experiences by using these hashtags and key phrases: #tov2012, #venustransit, ‘Transit of Venus’, and ‘Venus Transit’
  • You can watch a video which briefly explains the transit and provides a visual animation that compresses the 6 hours and 40 minutes of the transit into one minute
On transit day, this web app will also be embedded at several places including this web site, Astronomers Without Borders, and eclipse-maps.
The transit of Venus web app was developed jointly by the prototype software laboratory from Esri, the GIS software company (and my employer), Astronomers Without Borders, and the Dutch team behind the VenusTransit smartphone app and this website.

Out of Diaries: 28 May 1761

In early April 1761, just after rounding the Cape of Good Hope, Alexandre–Gui Pingré’s ship met a damaged French supply vessel that had been attacked by the British. Packed to the brim with provisions from the Cape for Mauritius the captain ordered Pingré’s vessel to accompany and protect them. Instead of sailing to Rodrigues where he had been ordered to view the transit on 6 June 1761, Pingré was now forced to go to Mauritius where he disembarked on 7 May.
It was still possible to reach Rodrigues in time – an eight-day journey and no more, one captain had told Pingré. However, squalls and high waves had slowed them down first, then a lull. The days were ticking by and the frenzied race had come to a standstill. On 26 May, Pingré finally saw Rodrigues in the distance – a sight ‘that filled me with such satisfaction as I haven’t felt since my departure from France’, he cried, but there was still no wind. He was now, Pingré believed, in the hands of God and the captain. ‘The calm continued on the sea, in the air and in the spirit of M. Thullier [his assistant]’, he wrote in his journal, ‘but certainly not in mine’.
Then, on 28 May, only seven days before the transit, Pingré finally set foot on the ‘desired island’. There was no town or fort on Rodrigues. The only reason the Compagnie des Indes kept the island was for its large turtle population. Regarded as a remedy against scurvy, the turtles were collected and kept in an enclosure and every two or three months dispatched to Mauritius. The governor of Rodrigues, Pingré snobbishly noted, lived only in a small log cabin made of roughly hewn timber and mud. Pingré and his assistant had to sleep in a shed with a dirt floor beside this governor’s ‘residence’.

‘We had no time to lose’, Pingré wrote. He found a location in the north of the island from where to view the transit, but it was too late to build a proper observatory. Instead he placed some big boulders in a circle and constructed a small hut to house the instruments. It was so crudely built that it gave little protection from wind, dust and animals. The instruments had already suffered from the long sea voyage with some ‘eaten by rust’, Pingré moaned, hectically polishing and greasing them with turtle oil, the only lubricant available. Over the next days, the French astronomer prepared his instruments and observed the movements of Jupiter’s satellites at night in order to set the clock – an enterprise that was sabotaged by the rats that chewed through one of the pendulums. He only had a few days to the transit.

The earlier music of the transit

The cultural reverberations of the 19th century transits seem to have been of less amplitude and frequency than one might expect. The only sculptures of note are the 1883 bas relief Le Passage de Vénus by Pierre-Bernard Prouha (Observatoire de Paris), and the commemorative medal by Alphée Dubois (1877), apparently commissioned by the Institut de France and the Academie des Sciences. Paintings on canvas, such as John George Brown’s of 1883 showing preternaturally clean transit-observing urchins, and frescos, such as  Dupain’s 1886 Passage de Vénus devant le Soleil, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. For imaginative literature, there is the novel by John Philip Sousa, The Transit of Venus (Boston: Small, Maynard & Co., 1920) ― according to Jay Passachoff this novel should be issued with a health warning; Sousa is no Jules Verne. As for music inspired by the transit, it can best be characterized as ephemeral. The list of composers is headed by the redoubtable Sousa, and his and similar works can be sampled thanks to a Library of Congress web site.
What, then, of the 17th and 18th centuries?
Historiographies of progress, and popular historiographies—often the same thing—have taught us of the central role of the constructs “scientific revolution” and “enlightenment” in the formation of our world. Viewing the 17th and 18th centuries through that filter, we have been encouraged to see the period as the first great age of heroic astronomical and geodetic expeditions. A romantic view of such undertakings engenders romantic expectations; surely the sacrifices which left some astronomers stranded in exotic locales between transits (Le Gentil), or placed them between enemy combatants (Mason and Dixon), or made them martyrs to science with their observations alone as cenotaphs (Chappe d’Auteroche) must have created a very visible mark on the literature, art, and music of the time.
If they did, the mark has faded. The only narratives were those written by the astronomers themselves, the only graphic art was that produced for the astronomers’ books, and as for the music, at first sight it doesn’t seem to have been composed. One might have expected Urania’s sister Euterpe to have paid her some compliment in the France of Maupertuis and Messier, a culture with a seemingly inexhaustible taste for programmatic and evocatively titled music.
The explanation might lie in the fact that astronomers and their doings may not have been of sufficient social elevation or cachet to have had pieces named after them. Musicians, like astronomers, always had to have an eye on funding, which in the 17th and 18th centuries meant courting sources of patronage. For the former, this meant naming pieces after noble patrons or the stock figures from bucolic, chivalric, or otherwise mythic literary landscapes with whom they identified. Who knows, but research may yet reveal that the likes of the Marquis Cornelio Malvasia, the Chevalier Jacques d’Allonville de Louville, the Comtes de Cassini de Thury, and the second Earl of Macclesfield did have notable music dedicated to them. If so, the question then becomes “Was it because these noblesse d’épée and noblesse de robe were sources of patronage, or distinguished astronomers, or both?”.
Perhaps the search for transit of Venus related music ought to be conducted several cultural registers down from the sources of noble patronage, and the musicians in pursuit of them. Are there transit of Venus pieces lurking within the corpus of 18th-century broadside literature? That research has yet to be conducted.
There is yet a third possibility, namely that we’ve not looked in the right places for 17th-18th century transit of Venus music. If we ask, “How did astronomy and music function in the culture?”, the field of candidate pieces widens. Astronomy at the time was part of, not apart from, the republic of letters. A lively awareness of classical allusions permeated that republic. The classical goddess Venus was the planet Venus. In that world, a musical reference to Venus could have been heard as a reference to both the goddess and the planet. So any piece named for Venus could have functioned socially as a piece of music about the transit of Venus. Even music without an obvious textual or aural connection to the transits could be situated to function as transit of Venus music. Steven has amply demonstrated this with his account of Fr. Maximilian Hell, sj, and Fr. Johann Sajnovics, sj, singing the Te Deum laudamus to mark the dispersal of clouds and their successful observation of  the 1769 transit. This is a more promising perspective.
In the world of Dr. Edmund Halley, it allows us to view a work such as John Blow’s (1649-1708) masque Venus and Adonis (ca. 1683) as a prospective transit of Venus piece. The same would hold for any work derived from it. How so? Simply that Halley, his Royal Society colleagues, and anyone hearing music from the masque or improvised music based on it in light of his seminal 1691 and 1715 papers could have been put in mind of the potential of the 1761 transit―aural associations can work like that. What might such a piece have sounded like? If constructed according to late 17th-century conventions, and, say, based on the chaconne from Blow’s Venus and Adonis, and played on a reproduction of a transverse flute from ca. 1700, it would sound like the piece at the head of this blog.
Likewise for Venus-themed music of the 1760s. In the collections of Harvard’s Loeb Music Library is a print (Merritt Mus. 627.3.710) of J.C. Bach’s A Second Collection of Favourite Songs Sung at Vaux Hall…(London: Welcker, n.d. – the “London” Bach was J.S. Bach’s youngest son). One of the texts is “Smiling Venus Goddess dear” (pp. 7-10). The ownership inscription reads “George Brooks his Book[,] May 3, 1769″. Was George Brooks reminded of the upcoming transit on June 3rd when he viewed, performed, or listened to the piece? It is attractive to imagine the possibility.
The music is performed by R.A. Rosenfeld, on a transverse flute in boxwood by Ronald Wick based on an instrument by Hotteterre (Paris, ca. 1700) a’=392Hz, now in Graz, Universalmuseum Joanneum No. 08447*1384. The divisions are modelled on those in The First and Second Part of the Division Flute Containing the Newest Divisions Upon the Choisest Grounds for the Flute [=recorder] as Also Several Excellent Preludes, Chacon’s and Cibells (London: J. Walsh―J. Hare―P. Randall, n.d. [=ca. 1706-1708]).

Iconic pictures of the transit

Once the transit of Venus is over, we only have pictures and drawings to get a visual remembrance of the event. Some photographs have the quality to become iconic: they are used in books, pamphlets and posters and in some way represent a particular historic transit all by themselves. For the transits of 1882 and 2004 there are indeed two well-known iconic pictures:

The one on the left was taken on 6 December 1882 by the photographers of the American expedition stationed at Cedar Keys, Florida. Of the hundreds of photographic plates exposed by the eight American transit expeditions, only eleven from Florida have survived. Taking pictures of the transit was almost a military operation, the photographic apparatus a huge construction. A clock-driven siderostat reflected the sun light through a lens of long focal length towards a light-tight photographic house, where a sharp 4-inch image of the Sun was formed on the photographic plate. The plates had been prepared in advance with a dry collodion emulsion. The chief photographer would place one of these light sensitive plates in a special holder, and expose the plate by slowly moving a slit in front of it. An assistant would take the time, temperature, atmospheric pressure as well as the plate number, time of exposure and direction in which the slit was moved, and write all these numbers down in a log book. A second assistant would then take the exposed plate and put it carefully in a storage box. In Cedar Keys, this operation was repeated 150 times during the transit of Venus – an average of one plate every 2.5 minutes! Imagine the heat and pressure in the small wooden photographic hut, where three men diligently performed their repetitive tasks without time for even a short tea break. It’s a miracle that a small portion of the product of their hard work survived until today and became a mainstream icon for the nineteenth century photographic results.
In 2004, another miracle caused the work of David Cortner to become widespread. On the morning of 8 June the weather looked so dreadful at Connelly’s Springs, North Carolina, that David didn’t even care to observe the transit at first. From an overlook above the Catawba River he met with fog and clouds before sunrise:
Waiting… fifteen minutes till sunrise. Fog down on the treetops, a threat of rain. I wouldn’t have bothered but for the thought that if James Cook would sail halfway around the world to see a transit, who am I not to get up early for the same opportunity? Just the same, I’m thinking it’s a good thing I brought something to read.
The Sun emerged about 6:30 with a ghostly Venus near the end of its transit. Timestamps applied by the camera show that the sky was clear enough for photography twice, and the two intervals totalled a little more than 12 minutes. This is about as clear as it ever got. Immediately after, the overcast became complete, and I did not see the Sun again all day. Nice timing!
The photographs were made with a Nikon D100 and an Astro-Physics 5-inch F6 refractor. The Sun, shimmering through the fog, with the black disk of Venus on it resulted in eye candy pictures that appear everywhere today, from brochures, posters and websites to newspaper articles. All the drama and beauty of observing a transit of Venus is perfectly captured in a single shot. To me, David’s picture bears a strong resemblance to B. Mourik’s image in the August issue of Maandelijkse Europeese Mercurius in 1761. It was this engraving on the cover of J. van der Bilt’s Venus tegen de zonneschijf (1940) that got me hooked on the transit of Venus more than a decade ago.
Who will make the most recognisable picture of the 2012 transit of Venus on June 5 and 6? Will it be you? Who knows. Be sure to upload your pictures to our online depository by emailing them.