Synopses & Reviews
On June 3, 1769, the planet Venus briefly passed across the face of the sun in a cosmic alignment that occurs twice per century. Anticipation of the rare celestial event sparked a worldwide competition among aspiring global superpowers, each sending their own scientific expeditions to far-flung destinations to time the planets trek. These pioneers used the "Venus Transit" to discover the physical dimensions of the solar system and refine the methods of discovering longitude at sea.
In this fast-paced narrative, Mark Anderson reveals the stories of three Venus Transit voyages — to the heart of the Arctic, the New World, and the Pacific — that risked every mortal peril of a candlelit age. With time running out, each expedition struggles to reach its destination — a quest that races to an unforgettable climax on a momentous summer day when the universe suddenly became much larger than anyone had dared to imagine.
The Day the World Discovered the Sun tells an epic story of the enduring human desire to understand our place in the universe.
"In this exciting tale part detective story, part history of science Anderson ('Shakespeare' by Another Name) vividly recreates the torturous explorations and enthralling discovery of three peripatetic and insatiably curious explorers. The French astronomer Jean-Baptiste Chappe d'Auteroche, the British naval captain James Cook, and the Hungarian scientist and priest Maximilian Hell chased Venus across the sky in 1761 and 1769 as its shadow crossed the sun and they sought to uncover one of the 18th-century's greatest scientific mysteries: the dimensions of the solar system. In these voyages, Cook, Chappe, and Hell determined that the Sun is 95 million miles from Earth and that the Sun's horizontal parallax is about eight and a half seconds. These discoveries also led to the establishment of lunar longitude methods and the use of the sextant to determine longitude. Anderson points out that the next transit of Venus in June 2012 is sure to add to astronomers' understanding of the nature of exoplanets in our solar system and whether or not such planets can support life similar to Earth. 16 pages of b&w photos. Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Anderson's prose [is] gleaming with a stout and convincing imagining of the past....An adventure tale that brings to life knowledge that is a touch esoteric, yet was at the center of vital, practical pursuits of the 18th century." Northampton Valley Advocate
"An armchair travel adventure." Roanoke Times
"I can think of no finer reading companion to warm you up for [the transit of Venus] than this week's review, The Day the World Discovered the Sun....This book reads like a fine historical adventure novel....The book doesn't back away from the 'good stuff' that astronomical history buffs yearn for....A table is included for the mathematically curious, and tales of astronomical intrigue abound." AstroGuyz.com
"A fine combination of popular science and real-life adventure that will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers." Booklist
In the tradition of Longitude, a page-turning story of eighteenth-century astronomers racing to find the distance to the sun and the keys to worldwide navigation.
About the Author
Mark Anderson is the author of "Shakespeare" By Another Name and has covered science, history, and technology for many media outlets, including Discover and National Public Radio. He holds a BA in physics, an MS in astrophysics, and lives in western Massachusetts.