Space: Just Passing By

Venus crosses directly in front of the sun only twice a century-and on June 8, this event happens for the first time since 1882

In 1627, the great German astronomer Johannes Kepler first predicted a transit of Venus, but he died before he could witness the 1631 event. In 1769, the explorer Captain James Cook-just a lieutenant at the time-made his first voyage to the South Pacific in order to view that year's transit from Tahiti. And more than 50 expeditions were launched from the U.S., Britain, Russia and other nations to every corner of the earth to see the 1874 transit.

There was an important reason to make such efforts: by recording the moments a transit began and ended from different vantage points on...

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