n MNASSA : Monthly Notes of the Astronomical Society of South Africa - Transit of Venus observations and relics in South Africa




Apart from local observations, two international expeditions observed the 1882 Transit of Venus from South Africa. The British/South African efforts observed from four stations, using a total of 11 telescopes while the Americans employed 7 instruments, including the telescope of the ladies seminary where they stayed. Very few relics survived to this day. Most well known are the two concrete piers in Touws River. A Dallmeyer equatorial mount was recently discovered at a school in Somerset West which may have originated at the Touws River site. At SAAO Cape Town, a typical "transit of Venus" 6-inch Grubb equatorial, used by Sir David Gill, is still in working condition. The wooden tube 7-inch Merz refractor, used by George Maclear (son of Sir Thomas), today serves as a finder telescope and its original "cannon ball bearing" dome and equatorial mount still exists. The site at Aberdeen Road in the Eastern Cape was recently located using a GPS fix and the area examined for possible relics. Unfortunately none were found but the position of the site with respect to Aberdeen Road raises some questions. The position of the site of the American expedition to Wellington could since be located within metres after obtaining Simon Newcomb's report, showing that my previously assumed position was wrong. His report further revealed some interesting details not known before.


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