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How Venus got caught up in an 18th century space race

Composite of images of the Venus transit taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 5, 2012.
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Credits: NASA/Goddard/SDO

Credits: NASA/Goddard/SDO

In the 18th century the world was focused on Venus. Expeditions were launched in pursuit of exact measurements of Venus as it passed between Earth and the Sun. By viewing its journey and location on the Sun’s surface, scientists hoped to make a massive leap in scientific knowledge. With a little help from math, Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber recounts how humanity came closer to understanding our cosmic address — and relative distances to other planets — in the solar system.

If you haven’t heard the other two episodes in our series on cosmic distances yet, check them out here:
The Stars that Settled The Great Debate
What The Universe Is Doing Right Now

Want to get in touch with story ideas or to share some science that delighted you? Email us at ShortWave@NPR.org!

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