New Zealand’s transit plans

The Royal Society of New Zealand is joining with other organisations to celebrate the 2012 transit of Venus, with events centring on Tolaga Bay and Gisborne. Tolaga Bay (Ūawa) is the place where two hundred and forty two years ago, James Cook of HMS Endeavour made landfall after observing the transit of Venus in Tahiti in 1769. Now, the town will be the national centre of observation of the 2012 transit of Venus, celebrating New Zealand’s history and looking to the future when the next transit will occur.

The Tolaga Bay community will stage a series of lead-up events and plans to host several hundred scientists and astronomy buffs from around the world on observation day to watch the transit. Representatives from the Natural History Museum of London, the Royal Societies of London and Edinburgh and the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, have been invited to attend the celebration in Tolaga Bay on 6 June 2012 (the Royal Society of London initiated the expedition by Cook and others in 1769). The transit of Venus observations at Tolaga Bay will be part of the programmes of a number of New Zealand scientific societies and institutions. The rich educational opportunities of the transit are made use of in the science, technology and arts curriculum at Tolaga Bay Area School. Student exchanges with Tahiti and England will further develop a sense of wider world citizenship among their students.

The celebrations will cement Tolaga Bay’s important place in New Zealand’s history. Tairāwhiti Museum for example will hold relevant exhibitions of art and artefacts, and initiatives are under way to restore Tolaga Bay Wharf, to renovate and upgrade historic Reynolds Hall and to develop the Uawanui-a-Ruamatua riverside heritage trail, which are all set for completion by June 2012. But this 2012 waypoint will also be used to contemplate the future of New Zealand and its descendants. The MacDiarmid Institute, Victoria University of Wellington, and the Royal Society of New Zealand are planning a cross sector Futures Forum in association with the transit of Venus to be held in Gisborne on 7 and 8 June 2012.

The eyes of the world will be on Tolaga Bay next year. In combining the past and present, New Zealand shows that observing the transit of Venus isn’t just about science — it is about thinking and ideas.

For more information on Tolaga Bay’s plans for the transit, visit www.royalsociety.org.nz.

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