A Collection of Papers Presented at the Venus Transit Conference Tromsoe 2012

C. Sterken and P. P. Aspaas (Eds.)


On 2-3 June 2012, the University of Tromsoe hosted a conference about the cultural and scientific history of the transits of Venus.

The conference took place in Tromsoe for two very specific reasons. First and foremost, the last transit of Venus of this century lent itself to be observed on the disc of the Midnight Sun in this part of Europe during the night of 5 to 6 June 2012. Second, several Venus transit expeditions in this region were central in the global enterprise of measuring the scale of the solar system in the eighteenth century.

The site of the conference was the Nordnorsk Vitensenter (Science Centre of Northern Norway), which is located at the campus of the University of Tromsoe. After the conference, participants were invited to either stay in Tromsoe until the midnight of 5-6 June, or take part in a Venus transit voyage in Finnmark, during which the historical sites Vardoe, Hammerfest, and the North Cape were to be visited. The post-conference program culminated with the participants observing the transit of Venus in or near Tromsoe, Vardoe and even from a plane near Alta.

These Proceedings contain a selection of the lectures delivered on 2-3 June 2012, and also a narrative description of the transit viewing from Tromsoe, Vardoe and Alta. The title of the book, Meeting Venus, refers the title of a play by the Hungarian film director, screenwriter and opera director Istvan Szabo (1938-). The autobiographical movie Meeting Venus (1991) directed by him is based on his experience directing Tannhauser at the Paris Opera in 1984. The movie brings the story of an imaginary international opera company that encounters a never ending series of difficulties and pitfalls that symbolise the challenges of any multicultural and international endeavour. As is evident from the many papers presented in this book, Meeting Venus not only contains the epic tales of the transits of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it also covers the conference participants' encounter with "Venus on the Sun" in historical archives as well as face-to-face at several locations in the Troms and Finnmark counties.



  • The complete book in pdf format can be downloaded from

  • Separate chapters:

  • jad19_1front.pdf Frontmatter: title pages, preface, list of participants, conference photographs.

  • jad19_1a.pdf A Synoptic Overview of Selected Key People and Key Places Involved in Historical Transits of Venus (Christiaan Sterken and Per Pippin Aspaas)

  • jad19_1b.pdf Science in Transit: Enlightenment Research Policy and Astronomy in Sweden (Sven Widmalm)

  • jad19_1c.pdf Transit Observations as Means to Re-establish the Reputation of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Gudrun Bucher)

  • jad19_1d.pdf Denmark-Norway, 1761-1769: Two Missed Opportunities? (Per Pippin Aspaas)

  • jad19_1e.pdf The Amateur Astronomer Anders Hellant and the Plight of his Observations of the Transits of Venus in Tornio, 1761 and 1769 (Osmo Pekonen)

  • jad19_1f.pdf The Expeditions of William Bayly and Jeremiah Dixon to Honningsvåg and Hammerfest, 1769 (Nils Voje Johansen)

  • jad19_1g.pdf Anders Johan Lexell's Role in the Determination of the Solar Parallax (Johan Carl-Erik Stén and Per Pippin Aspaas)

  • jad19_1h.pdf Politicians, Patriots and Plotters: Unlikely Debates Occasioned by Maximilian Hell's Venus Transit Expedition of 1769 (László Kontler)

  • jad19_1j.pdf From Keplerian Orbits to Precise Planetary Predictions: the Transits of the 1630s (Steinar Thorvaldsen)

  • jad19_1k.pdf The French Savants, and the Earth-Sun Distance: a Résumé (Suzanne Débarbat)

  • jad19_1m.pdf Austrian-Hungarian Astronomical Observatories Run by the Society of Jesus at the Time of the 18th Century Venus Transits (Thomas Posch, Per Pippin Aspaas, Akos Bazso and Isolde Müller)

  • jad19_1n.pdf The Important Role of the Two French Astronomers J.-N. Delisle and J.-J. Lalande in the Choice of Observing Places during the Transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769 (Simone Dumont and Monique Gros)

  • jad19_1p.pdf Venusians: the Planet Venus in the 18th-Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate (David Dunér)

  • jad19_1q.pdf Jean-Charles Houzeau and the 1882 Belgian Transit of Venus Expeditions (Christiaan Sterken)

  • jad19_1r.pdf Observation of Venus and Mercury Transits from the Pic-du-Midi Observatory (Guy Ratier & Sylvain Rondi)

  • jad19_1s.pdf The Transit of Venus on the Midnight Sun Observed from the Tromsø Region (Steinar Thorvaldsen)

  • jad19_1t.pdf A Venus Transit Midnight Flight over Alta (Guy Ratier and Sylvain Rondi)

  • jad19_1u.pdf A Voyage to Vardø. A Scientific Account of an Unscientific Expedition (Christiaan Sterken, Per Pippin Aspaas, David Dunér, László Kontler, Reinhard Neul, Osmo Pekonen and Thomas Posch)

  • jad19_1v.pdf Hilmar W. Duerbeck: Leaves of Memory (Christiaan Sterken)