1882 December 6

Steven van Roode By Steven van Roode

The transit of 1882 December 6 wasn’t as much anticipated as the previous transits. Obviously, scientific interest had faded. Measuring the transit of Venus wasn’t the most important means to obtain the distance to Sun anymore. Other, more accurate methods were now available. However, the transit still attracted a lot of attention, especially from amateur astronomers.

Transit of Venus 1882


In 1882 there was only one Dutch expedition to observe the transit of Venus. Paulus Hendricus Brocx went by his own to Willemstad on the island of Curaçao and set up his instruments on Fort Nassau in a wooden hut wich was erected especially for the occasion. During the event, the sky was clear and all four contacts could be timed. Brocx was assisted by two men from the ship.
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Location: 12°06′54″.2 N, 68°55′35″.8 W    times of contact

From the Netherlands only few observations of the 1882 transit of Venus were attempted because of an overcast sky. At Utrecht Observatory the sky started to clear at the time of ingress and Jean Oudemans saw Venus for a couple of minutes between first and second contact. Even during this short period Oudemans was unlucky, as the sun was shortly obscured by the wind direction indicator of the neighbouring meteorological institute.
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Location: 52°05′07″.8 N, 5°07′45″.5 E    times of contact

Great Britain

The observer of Orwell Park Observatory in Ipswich, John Isaac Plummer, was allowed to participate in an expedition of the Royal Observatory of Greenwich to Bermuda in order to observe the transit of Venus. Plummer observed the transit from Gibbs Hill in the immediate vicinity of the lighthouse, together with Charles Burnaby Neate, but the weather was unfavourable.
Location: 32°15′09″.9 N, 64°50′03″.8 W    times of contact

At Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, its director Johan Ludwig Emil Dreyer observed the 1882 transit of Venus with the 15-inch Grubb reflector, stopped down to eleven inches and later to seven inches during ingress. His assistant Charles Faris used the 3.8-inch achromatic finder, attached to the tube of the refractor. Although snow fell in considerable quantities on the morning of December 6, only a few clouds passed now and then during the transit and not at any of the critical moments.
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Location: 54°21′07″.1 N, 6°38′53″.4 W    times of contact

One of the few observers in the United Kingdom who was able to time both contacts at ingress, Sir John Burns observed the transit from his large mansion Castle Wemyss. Castle Wemyss was demolished in 1984.
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Location: 55°53′27″.5 N, 4°53′49″.0 W    times of contact

The ingress of Venus upon the sun’s disk was well seen by Robert Grant at Glasgow Observatory on Horselethill in Downhill. At internal contact, the dark ligament was distinctly seen, becoming more and more elongated until finally the rupture of the ligament occured. The observatory was demolished in 1936 and the Notre Dame High School was built on the site.
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Location: 55°52′42″.1 N, 4°17′57″.0 W    times of contact

Glasgow Observatory

Glasgow Observatory. (Image courtesy of Glasgow University Library, Special Collections)

At Dunecht Observatory near Aberdeenshire in Scotland, J. Gerhard Lohse had best viewing conditions during the time of ingress and shortly after, except for a small snow cloud, which obscured the sun completely for about two minutes at the time of internal contact. An hour after ingress a heavy snow shower came on the the sun remained invisible for the rest of the day. Lohse observed with the 15-inch refractor with a power of about 190.
Location: 57°09′38″.5 N, 2°24′48″.2 W    times of contact

Probably at the rectory of Mells Maures Horner observed the transit of Venus together with his father reverend George Horner. A 5-inch equatorially mounted, clock driven refractor by Cooke and a spectroscope of two prisms provided a good view of the ingress of Venus. Although the exact moment of internal contact was missed because of a cloud floating by, the aureole could be seen beautifully.
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Location: 51°14′26″.7 N, 2°23′34″.5 W    times of contact

From his observatory at the rectory of Hatherop, reverend Robert P. Davies could see the ingress of the planet with nothing to mar the view. He observed with a 4-inch telescope which was equatorially mounted and clock driven. It was difficult to judge the time of internal contact, because the light of the aureole could easily be mistaken for the strip of sunlight after the junction of the cusps.
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Location: 51°44′43″.2 N, 1°46′36″.3 W    times of contact

From his residence Fernhill House in Wootton Bridge on the Isle of Wight Frederick Brodie observed the 1882 transit of Venus with an 8½-inch equatorial by Cooke. His son used a 3-inch Merz telescope. Because of the clouds, they had only a few glimpses of the sun. Fernhill House stood at the head of Wootton Creek commanding a fine view of the Solent and was adorned with a lofty prospect tower. The house was destroyed by fire in 1938.
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Location: 50°43′13″.5 N, 1°14′02″.4 W    times of contact

Fernhill House, Wootton Bridge

Wootton Bridge in 1848. In the background is Fernhill House, with a prospect tower.

From the rectory at East Tisted, reverend Frederick Howlett, a well-known solar observer, observed the transit of Venus by projecting the sun’s image onto a screen in a darkened chamber using a 3-inch telescope. Applying a power of 80, an image of 32 inches in diameter was produced. He only obtained a few brief glimpses of Venus. At the moment of first internal contact, the sun was completely clouded. Shortly after, the black drop effect was very apparent.
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Location: 51°05′08″.9 N, 1°00′00″.9 W    times of contact

At Crowborough in Sussex Charles Leeson Prince, a local surgeon with a passion for astronomy and meteorology, set up an observatory in the 1870’s, called The Grange. From this observatory he observed the 1882 transit of Venus. Throughout the morning slight showers of hail and snow were falling, until in the afternoon the heavier clouds passed away. Prince observed second contact and was much perplexed by the black drop effect. The Grange was demolished in 1964 to may way for new houses.
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Location: 51°03′10″.8 N, 0°09′16″.7 E    times of contact

The Grange at Crowborough

The Grange in 1910. At the left is a round tower that housed the Tulley Equatorial. From the upper observatory on the roof Prince observed the last part of the transit until sunset. (Picture courtesy of The Weald)

In Cape Town, at the Royal Observatory, David Gill observed the 1882 transit of Venus. He used the 6-inch Grubb refractor, then at the Wind Tower, which is demolished today. There were six observers in total, scattered all around the grounds of the observatory. Gill coordinated the observations of the transit of Venus in South Africa: he assisted the American and British parties, set up an observatory at Durban and communicated with the expeditions making a stop at Cape Town.
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Location: 33°56′03″.8 S, 18°28′38″.6 E    times of contact

At Montagu Road (modern Touwsrivier) a British party led by German born astronomer Albert Marth set up an observing station. They erected two telescopes, a 6-inch Grubb equatorial and a 4.5-inch Dallmeyer equatorial. The first was used by Marth and the latter by C.A. Stevens. The sky being clear, Both observers managed to make successful observations of ingress and egress. Two concrete piers survived and can still be seen today at the courtyard of the former Douglas Hotel.
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Location: 33°20′21″.6 S, 20°02′07″.5 E    times of contact

Piers at Touwsrivier

The two piers left by the British expedition in Touwsrivier. The block on the south pier with the National Monument plaque was later added. (Picture by George Tucker)

David Gill of the Cape Town Observatory sent out a party to Aberdeen Road, manned by William Henry Finlay and R.T. Pett. They set up two 6-inch Grubb refractors to observe the transit. On the day of the transit, the weather was so hot that the image of the Sun was excessively boiling and the definition was very bad.
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Location: 32°45′56″.5 S, 24°18′54″.3 E    times of contact

Natal Observatory in Durban was founded in 1882, just in time to observe the transit of Venus. Edmund Neison was appointed astronomer and arrived just six days before the transit. He stopped down the 8-inch Grubb refrator to 6-inch, using a power of 160. Mr. P. Sandford, from the Durban High School, read out and recorded the chronometer times. The observatory, demolished in 1957, was located on the south-west corner of the botanical gardens, on the corner of St. Thomas’ and Currie Roads.
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Location: 29°50′47″.1 S, 31°00′12″.7 E    times of contact

Stephen Perry chose the south point of the island Nosy Ve, a sandbank off the coast of Madagascar surrounded by a coral reef, to erect his instruments. On the day of the transit a high wind caused showers of fine sand to fall over the instruments, but satisfactory observations of the internal contact at ingress could be secured.
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Location: 29°50′47″.1 S, 31°00′12″.7 E    times of contact

For the 1882 transit of Venus the Royal Society of London origanized and equipped a number of expeditions. A party under direction of William Morris set up its portable observatories in the grounds of Jimbour House at Jimbour, Queensland. Cuthbert Peek, together with his assistant Charles Grover, had managed to get himself attached, at his own expense, to the Society’s expedition. Next to a Queensland Bottle Tree which has been planted at the transit of Venus site, the observation is also commemorated by three informative signs.
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Location: 26°57′41″.3 S, 151°14′05″.6 E    times of contact

Observatories at Jimbour House

The British observatories hosted by Jimbour House in 1882. In the far left and the far right (with the telescope sticking out) are the huts for Peek’s and Morris’ equatorials. In the middle is the transit house.

At Burnham, near Christchurch in New Zealand, George Lyon Tupman occupied the buildings erected for the accomadation of Major Palmer, who took observations at the previous transit. Tupman succuessfuly observed the 1882 transit of Venus. Today, there are three Lands and Survey Department reference points engraved in bronze and set on three crumbling brick pillars arranged in a triangle some 20 metres apart. Each pillar is approximately one metre tall. They are set in an open area fifty metres from the military hospital, on flat, grassed land, about 0.6 km south along Burdons Road from Aylesbury Road intersection. The principal pillar is known as the Burnham Fundamental.
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Location: 43°36′40″.7 S, 172°18′09″.3 E    times of contact

Pillars at Burnham

The three brick pillars at Burnham. The principal pillar is on the right. (Picture by Bratt Manning, 2008)


The German expedition led by Julius Franz set up its temporary observatory buildings at 223 Edgefield Avenue NW in Aiken, South Carolina. Unfortunately, on the day of the transit fog prevented the astronomers to time first contact. However, when the sky cleared they managed to do a couple of measurements with their heliometer. Today, the site is marked by a brass plaque. Adjacent to the Aiken County Historical Museum there is an iron frame of one of the German observatories as well as a stone plaque left by the German astronomers.
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Location: 33°33′53″.6 N, 81°43′10″.6 W    times of contact

Frame of German observatory at Aiken

The iron frame of the largest observatory in the grounds of the Aiken County Historical Museum. (Picture by Roger Manley)

Another German expedition went to Hartford, Connecticut. Led by Gustav Müller, the German team set up its observatory on the hilltop campus of Trinity College. There used to be an inscribed stone marker on the heliometer pier, but in 1959 this marker was relocated to its present location, just outside the entrance to McCook Hall and the Gallows Hill Book Store, to make way for the construction of Mather Hall.
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Location: 41°44′48″.0 N, 72°41′32″.6 W    times of contact

German heliometer at Hartford

The heliometer of the German expedition at Hartford, operated by Gustav Müller.

The German expedition to Punta Arenas, Chile, was first headed by Friedrich Küstner, but later also Arthur Auwers joined the party. The station was located a couple of yards southwest from the wooden lighthouse on the corner of Calle Magallanes and Avenida Colón. Though December 5 was dominated by showers and the night was overcast, skies turned out to be clear on the day of the transit.
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Location: 53°09′39″.3 S, 70°54′20″.5 W    times of contact

German station at Punta Arenas

The German station near the lighthouse of Punta Arenas.

After its troubled landing at Moltke Harbour, South Georgia, on August 20, the German party led by Carl Schrader cleared the snow and put up the wooden huts, the revolving iron dome for the transit observations, and shelters for the instruments. Due to dominating clouds during the days prior to December 6, hopes for seeing the transit weren’t high. Fortunately, a storm cleared the sky and the transit was observed from start to end. Today, there are still some remains of the old German station to be seen.
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Location: 54°31′05″.6 S, 36°02′50″.0 W    times of contact

Remains of the dome on South Georgia

Remains of the iron frame of the dome. (Picture by David Nicholls)

At Munich Observatory in Bogenhausen, the sky was overcast until the time of ingress. Astronomer Hugo Seeliger and his assistant List observed with telescopes by Fraunhofer. Their timings of interior contact were much hampered by the black drop effect and the aureole. The original observatory in Bogenhausen was demolished in May 1964 to make way for a modern building.
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Location: 48°08′45″.0 N, 11°36′25″.2 E    times of contact

In Germany the weather was hopeless on December 6. Nevertheless, at the Astrophysical Observatory in Potsdam Hermann Carl Vogel prepared to observe Venus’ ingress with the large refractor. Fortunately the sky cleared in the afternoon. Although Vogel had practised a lot with an artificial model of the transit and had read many reports of the foregoing transits, he was surprised by the appearance and brightness of the aureole.
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Location: 52°22′50″.0 N, 13°03′51″.4 E    times of contact


In 1882 a Belgian expedition, led by Jean Charles Houzeau of the Brussels Royal Observatory, went to San Antonio, Texas to observe the transit of Venus with a heliometer with objectives of unequal focal lengths. This special heliometer was invented by Houzeau. The Belgian astronomers also set up an auxiliary station. Today, the site in the grounds of the Bullis House Inn at Pierce Avenue is marked.
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Location: 29°26′34″.5 N, 98°27′54″.2 W    times of contact

In the garden south of the observatory in Quinta Normal Park Belgian astronomer Louis Niesten observed the 1882 transit of Venus, together with astronomer Charles Lagrange and his brother Joseph Niesten, an artillery captain. The day of the transit was perfectly clear and 606 measurements of the position of Venus were taken with Houzeau’s heliometer. Today, the observatory houses the Esquela Tecnica Aeronautica.
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Location: 33°26′41″.6 S, 70°40′57″.7 W    times of contact

United States

George Davidson had a private observatory at Lafayette Square in San Francisco, built in 1879 on a high knoll. It was a 15 by 15 foot octagonal wooden structure, topped with a 10 foot rounded canvas dome. It contained a 6.4-inch Clark refracting telescope. Assigned to charge the observations was John J. Gilbert of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, aided by Ferdinand Westdahl. Other observers at Davidson’s Observatory were Edmund F. Dickins, C.B. Hill and Mrs. Davidson. An unusually steady atmosphere prevailed on the day of the transit and successful observations were made of the last two contacts. The observatory was closed in 1907.
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Location: 37°47′29″.2 N, 122°25′38″.3 W    times of contact

Observatory of George Davidson

George Davidson’s observatory on Lafayette Square in San Francisco. In the back is the old home of Samuel Holladay.

From the Coast and Geodetic Survey station on the summit of Mount Diabolo in California, Justin P. Moore observed the 1882 transit of Venus. Six years earlier, the Coast and Geodetic Survey had erected here a three-story signal station. Moore was vice president of the California Academy of Sciences.
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Location: 37°52′54″.2 N, 121°54′51″.9 W    times of contact

In late 1882 Amherst College astronomer David Peck Todd travelled to California to photograph the transit of Venus from the summit of Mount Hamilton where Lick Observatory was being constructed. A total of 147 glass negatives survived and these images were recently turned into a movie by William Sheehan and Anthony Misch. Learn more…[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
Location: 37°20′30″.9 N, 121°38′31″.0 W    times of contact

At Tepusquet Station of the Coast and Geodetic Survey in California Philip Albert Welker observed third and fourth contact of the 1882 transit of Venus. Under a cloudless sky he watched with a 2½-inch telescope, assisted by H. Stoddard, who recorded the observations. To reduce the amount of light, he fastened two colored glasses, taken from a sextant, to the eye end of the telescope. Just before third contact Welker saw a bright ring of light between the limbs of the sun.
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Location: 34°54′36″.9 N, 120°11′10″.8 W    times of contact

On the ranch of Absolom S. Lehman, Nevada, a party of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey, lead by William Eimbeck and assisted by R.A. Marr, observed the 1882 Transit of Venus. The morning of December 6 started with clouds on the horizon, preventing observing the first part of the transit, but in de course of the day the weather improved and third and fourth contacts were observed under calm circumstances. No trace of a black drop was seen during third contact.
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Location: 39°00′32″.9 N, 114°11′07″.7 W    times of contact

On the summit of Cerro Roblero in New Mexico, close to Fort Selden, a party led by George Davidson established an astronomical station to observe the 1882 transit of Venus. The day of the transit was pleasant, with only slight patches of cirrus clouds. A total number of 216 good photographs were produced, and all four contacts could be timed.
Location: 32°26′07″.1 N, 106°55′00″.2 W    times of contact

In 1882 the U.S. Naval Observatory equipped a total of eight expeditions. A team led by Asaph Hall observed the transit of Venus from San Antonio, Texas, close to Fort Sam Houston and about 500 yards east from the site of the Belgian expedition. There is a commemorative base marker in the grounds of the Infantery Post Housing Area (which is visible in the streetview).
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Location: 29°26′32″.7 N, 98°27′36″.9 W    times of contact

The director of Carleton College Observatory in Northfiled, Minnesota, William Wallace Payne, observed third contact and made micrometer measures of Venus’ diameter. The observatory was constructed in 1878, but razed in 1905 to make way for Laird Hall. A new observatory was built about 100 yards to the east.
Location: 44°27′43″.7 N, 93°09′13″.7 W    times of contact

In 1882 the Washburn Observatory in Madison, Wisconsin was completed as an Italianate style building. Its director, Edward Singleton Holden, observed the transit of Venus from this observatory.
Location: 43°04′34″.4 N, 89°24′33″.6 W    times of contact

Between 1863 and 1887 the Dearborn Observatory was located in an observatory tower on South Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago on the west side of Douglas Hall. The observatory possessed a large 18.5-inch refractor by Alvan Clark and Sons. Here, director George Washington Hough and Sherburne Wesley Burnham timed the first two contacts. In 1887 the Dearborn Observatory was removed to Evanston.
Location: 41°49′58″.1 N, 87°36′45″.1 W    times of contact

Dearborn Observatory

Douglas Hall in Chicago seen from the southeast. The drum shaped dome of Dearborn Observatory can be seen rising behind the roof.

At the Vanderbilt Observatory in Nashville, Tennessee two independent observations of the 1882 transit of Venus were made. From the dome of the observatory engineer Olin Henry Landreth observed the transit with the 6-inch equatorial. In de grounds of the observatory, about 200 feet due west from the building, Edward Emerson Barnard set up a 5-inch Byrne refractor, mounted as a simple equatorial. Observations of ingress were prevented by clouds, whereas at egress the definition was very poor from heated air.
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Location: 36°03′08″.6 N, 86°48′19″.2 W    times of contact

At the time of the 1882 transit of Venus, the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, had its old observatory already removed, a new observatory wasn’t built yet and the Napoleon III telescope was still in store. The actual observation of the transit was left in the hands of students and a campus astronomy club which utilized various small telescopes on campus. The day began cloudy, but by 10 in the morning the sky cleared.
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Location: 41°42′08″ N, 86°14′19″ W    times of contact

The 1882 transit of Venus was observed from Cincinnati Observatory, Ohio. After Ormond Stone left the institute in the autumn of 1882, Herbert Wilson served as astronomer pro tempore in charge of the observatory. According to the New York Times of December 7, 1882, the observations were very unsatisfactory on account of dense clouds.
Location: 39°08′20″.9 N, 84°25′21″.1 W    times of contact

From the Detroit Observatory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, John Martin Schaeberle observed the 1882 transit of Venus with a 6-inch telescope. Only the lens from this telescope is extant today. At first and second contact the sun was wholly obscured by clouds. Later on the sun could be observed through the clouds and Schaeberle determined the apparent diameter of Venus with a micrometer. Third contact was also lost due to clouds. Only fourth contact could be timed. The observations were made from the Student’s Observatory, which was a separate, small building located south of the meridian room of the main observatory and torn down in 1923.
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Location: 42°16′55″.2 N, 83°43′53″.9 W    times of contact

In early November 1882 John Robie Eastman arrived at Cedar Key, Florida to observe the transit of Venus. The observatory buildings were set up in a small park, which was recently planted with young orange trees. The park was located between the Suwannee Hotel and the Atlantic, Gulf and West Indies Transit Company passenger depot. A total of 176 photographic plates were processed and the last three contacts could be timed. Unfortunately, the precise position of the observatories in the park is unknown.
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Location: 29°08′16″.6 N, 83°01′47″.9 W    times of contact

Cedar Key in 1884

A bird’s eye view of 1884 Cedar Key. The site selected by Eastman was located in the small park to the right, planted with small orange trees. (Lithograph by Beck & Pauli, 1884. Image courtesy of University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.)

In 1882 Charles Hasselbrink was Signal Service observer at Havanna and observed the transit from the terrace of the U.S. Hydrographic Office at 55 Habana Street in Havanna. He observed with a 2.5-inch telescope by Negretti and Zambra, which was shaken by wind in the afternoon. Hasselbrink timed all four contacts, though he considered the exterior contacts doubtful. During the transit he observed the aureole around the planet as well as gray patches on the black disk.
Location: 23°08′25″.3 N, 82°21′15″.3 W    times of contact

From Allegheny Observatory near Pittsburgh Samuel Pierpont Langley observed the 1882 transit of Venus with the 13-inch equatorial, stopped down at 6-inch. The observation was so interupted by clouds, that the times of contact had little value. Langley however did see the bright polar spot between first and second contact at ingress. The observatory was demolished in the mid-1950s.
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Location: 40°27′42″.3 N, 80°00′42″.9 W    times of contact

At the building site of the new Leander McCormick Observatory at Charlottesville, Virginia, its director Ormond Stone observed the transit with a 10-centimetre telescope, equatorially mounted on a tripod. First contact was lost by clouds. At second contact the clouds became suddenly thinner, and an observation was made by reflection from a sheet of white paper, the sun shade having been removed and there not being time to replace it.
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Location: 38°01′57″.7 N, 78°31′20″.6 W    times of contact

In 1882 the new Leander McCormick Observatory at Charlottesville, Virginia, was still under construction. Mathematics professor Francis H. Smith observed the 1882 transit of Venus on the northern portico of the Rotunda building. The telescope was transferred from the eastern to the western side of the portico between second and third contacts.
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Location: 38°02′08″.5 N, 78°30′12″.5 W    times of contact

On the corner of Arnold Park and East Avenue in Rochester, New York an observatory was constructed in 1882 by Hulbert Harington Warner for local astronomer Lewis Swift. Equiped with a 16-inch refractor, the observatory posessed one of the largest instruments in the area. On the day of the transit, clouds intervened the observation and Swift only recorded three brief glimpses of the sun. The Warner Observatory was razed in 1931.
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Location: 43°09′12″.4 N, 77°35′21″.8 W    times of contact

Warner Observatory

An 1883 picture of Warner Observatory in Rochester, New York. (Picture courtesy of Rochester Public Library)

In 1882 William Harkness observed the transit of Venus from the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington DC, which was then located on the 24th and E Streets site. All four contacts were timed and 53 photographs of the sun were taken. Harkness led the American efforts for the 1882 transit of Venus, reduced the observations and published the final results.
Location: 38°53′42″.2 N, 77°03′05″.3 W    times of contact

At the Signal Service Office in Washington DC, Winslow Upton succesfully made observations of all four contacts with a 3-inch equatorial. At fourth contact he was lucky, as clouds obscured the sun at almost the exact instant of contact. The building of the Signal Service was located at 1719 G Street NW.
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Location: 38°53′53″.3 N, 77°02′23″.6 W    times of contact

In the observatory and yard of Fauth & Co.’s shop, an instrument business on the southeast corner of First Street and B Street, Washington DC, Charles A. Schott observed the 1882 transit of Venus, assisted by J.G. Porter. Schott was assistant at the Coast and Geodetic Survey. He used a new clock driven 6-inch equatorial made by Camill Fauth, for which the latter had been awarded a gold medal at the Cincinnati Exposition earlier that year. Benjamin A. Colonna observed with a reconnoitering telescope on a tripod stand. Today, the site is occupied by the Rayburn House Office Building.
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Location: 38°53′14″.7 N, 77°00′42″.0 W    times of contact

In 1870 an observatory was erected in the southwestern portion of the Hobart College campus in Geneva, New York, where Bartlett Hall is now located. The observatory consisted of an octagon tower with a moving dome measuring 17 feet in diameter, and transit and computing rooms at right angles. There was a 9-inch equatorial telescope driven by clockwork. The last two contacts were timed. The observer might have been Hamilton Lamphere Smith, who was professor of astronomy at Hobart College at that time.
Location: 42°51′25″.4 N, 76°59′02″.6 W    times of contact

Hobart Observatory, Geneva

The observatory on Hobart campus, circa 1880.

From the Sayre Observatory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, director Charles Leander Doolittle observed the 1882 transit of Venus. All four contacts could be timed. Today, Sayre Observatory houses the Graduate Student Council of Lehigh University.
Location: 40°36′23″.0 N, 75°22′50″.3 W    times of contact

Sayre Observatory, Bethlehem

The Sayre Observatory in 1890.

Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania, had a small observatory, where Isaac Sharpless, who then taught mathematics and astronomy, observed the 1882 transit of Venus. He could time all four contacts.
Location: 40°00′33″.1 N, 75°18′34″.8 W    times of contact

From the Traill Green Observatory at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, Selden Jennings Coffin obtained good results. The sun was unobscured during the entire transit and all four contacts could be observed. Before third contact a rim of light surrounded the planet, which after the contact took the form of a horn on the south-western part of the planet. The observatory was torn down in 1929 to make way for Markle Hall.
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Location: 40°41′52″.5 N, 75°12′31″.9 W    times of contact

The Philadelphia station for observing the transit of Venus was at the Central High School building, then located at the southeast corner of Broad and Green Streets. Here observations were taken independently by Prof. Monroe B. Snyder, of the school, and Prof. W.F. Mck. Ritter, of the Nautical Almanac Office, Washington. During the transit the face of the sun was frequently obscured by clouds.
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Location: 39°57′47″.7 N, 75°09′39″.3 W    times of contact

Central High School, Philadelphia

Picture taken by Robert Newell of the Central High School at the corner of Broad and Green Streets (Picture courtesy of Brenner Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia)

At Princeton, New Jersey ten observers watched the 1882 transit of Venus, besides eleven students. At Halsted Observatory three observers watched the phenomenon. Professor Charles Augustus Young observed with the new 23-inch Clark refractor which was installed in the observatory that year. All four contacts were timed and micrometric measures of Venus’ diameter were made. Halsted Observatory was demolished in 1932 to make way for Joline Hall.
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Location: 40°20′52″.6 N, 74°39′43″.7 W    times of contact

Halsted Observatory

Halsted Observatory at Princeton.

The observatory of the John C. Green School of Science at Princeton was also used to observe and photograph the 1882 transit of Venus. The wooden building, connected with the professor’s residence, was designed merely to furnish the means of instruction in practical astronomy. The main instrument, a 9½-inch equatorial, was used by Cyrus Fogg Brackett to observe the contacts. He was also in charge of the photographic operations. The photographs were made on the same plan as those of the official American expeditions. The photographic house, erected in the observatory grounds, burnt down in early November, but was restored in a week’s time. The observatory was demolished in the 1960’s to make way for Robertson Hall.
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Location: 40°20′54″.0 N, 74°39′16″.9 W    times of contact

Women astronomer Maria Mitchell observed and photographed the 1882 transit of Venus from her observatory in the grounds of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Together with her students she used a smaller version of the photoheliostat used by the American expeditions. Also the equatorial resembled the equatorial used by the official transit parties.
Location: 41°41′17″.9 N, 73°53′35″.8 W    times of contact

Vassar College photograph of 1882 transit of Venus

Photograph of the 1882 transit of Venus taken at Vassar College by Maria Mitchell and her students. (Picture courtesy of Vassar College Library)

At the observatory of the Columbia University in New York City, John Krom Rees observed the 1882 transit of Venus with the College’s Alvan Clark refractor, which was hoisted up there because the observatory was not finished. When the planet was a little more than half-way on the sun, he saw a line of light shining through Venus’ atmosphere, marking out the portion of the planet’s disk not seen on the sun. At the time, Columbia University Observatory was located on the top of the law school building at the campus, bounded by 49th and 50th Street and Madison and Park Avenue.
Location: 40°45′25″.7 N, 73°58′29″.3 W    times of contact

Columbia University, New York City

Columbia University at Madison Avenue in New York City. The observatory is located on the roof, giving it a mechanical elevation above the horizon of the surrounding roofs. In the background is St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In 1882 the observatory of Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut used two brand new instruments to watch the transit of Venus. Leonard Waldo observed with the heliometer of Repsold and Sons, then the largest one in America. An 8-inch Grubb refractor, financed by E.M. Reed, was used for photographing the sun during the transit. All four contacts could be timed, about 150 photographs were produced and micrometer measures of the planet’s diameter were made. Today, a portion of Yale Observatory still survives as part of the Celentano School at Canner Street. The Reed telescope is now at the Leither Family Observatory.
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Location: 41°19′28″.2 N, 72°55′18″.4 W    times of contact    streetview

Reed telescope building

The Reed telescope building, which stood about 55 m east of the heliometer dome.

Professor Charles Augustus Young of Princeton was also a lecturer at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts and contributed greatly to the astronomical development there. After careful preparations he sent one of his Princeton graduate students, R F West, to Mount Holyoke College to observe the transit from the John Payson Williston Observatory. The enterprise had partial success, because the morning was cloudy and the beginning of the transit could not be observed. When the clouds had disappeared, hundreds of students and others visited the dome to see the image of the sun projected by the 8-inch equatorial.
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Location: 42°15′21″.8 N, 72°34′39″.3 W    times of contact    streetview

John Payson Williston Observatory

The observatory at Mount Holyoke College. (Picture from Sarah D. Stow, History of Mount Holyoke Seminary, 1887)

From his private observatory in Providence, Rhode Island, Frank Evans Seagrave observed and photographed the 1882 transit of Venus. He used an 8¼-inch Alvan Clark refractor. The photographs were taken with a 3-inch aperture object glass of 60 inches focal length and enlarged by an eyepiece to 4 inches in diameter. The plates used were Eastman’s dry gelatine instantaneous plates. The brick observatory building was located in the backyard of his father’s house at 119 Benefit Street. The observatory has been demolished and the refractor is now being used at the Seagrave Observatory in North Scituate.
Location: 41°49′48″.5 N, 71°24′30″.0 W    times of contact

Seagrave Observatory

Picture of the observatory of Frank Seagrave in the backyard of his father’s house, dated 1939. (Picture courtesy of Dave Huestis)

Using the 15-inch refractor at Harvard College Observatory, stopped down to 6 inches, its director Edward Charles Pickering observed each of the four contacts of the 1882 transit of Venus. He made spectroscopic and photometric observations. Arthur Searle observed egress with a 5-inch telescope, which was attached to a rigid frame and aimed at a movable mirror. Also engaged in the observation were Oliver Clinton Wendell, J.R. Edwards, Seth Carlo Chandler and William Henry Pickering (Edward’s brother).
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Location: 42°22′53″.4 N, 71°07′41″.9 W    times of contact

Telescope maker Alvan Graham Clark observed the 1882 transit of Venus from his establishment at 50 Henry Street in Cambridgeport. He was accompanied by Carl Axel Robert Lundin. The factory was razed in 1936.
Location: 42°21′18″.6 N, 71°06′32″.6 W    times of contact

An expedition led by Simon Newcomb travelled to South Africa to oberserve and photograph the transit of Venus. He set up his instruments in Wellington, in the grounds of the Huguenot Seminary for Girls. Alongside the professional American astronomers, three female teachers of the seminary observed the transit of Venus from their own small observatory.
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Location: 33°38′09″.4 S, 19°00′34″.0 E    times of contact

Another US expedition to Auckland, New Zealand, was led by Edwin Smith. The observatory was constructed on a small hill in the Auckland Domain, since that time known as Observatory Hill. For half a century afterwards a memorial marked the site of the observatory. Now this monument has been pulled down and the site is covered by the south-western portion of the War Memorial Museum.
Location: 36°51′39″.8 S, 174°46′39″.3 E    times of contact


The director of McGill Observatory in Montréal, Clement Henry McLeod, observed the transit from Winnipeg, Manitoba. A small and unpretentious looking rough board shanty was constructed a few rods east of Main Street, a little north of the St. John’s Ladies College. The only shelter which the observers enjoyed was that afforded by the walls of the building, as the roof had to be opened for the taking of the observations. The drifting snow did not greatly obstruct the vision at the time of the internal contact at egress.
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Location: 49°55′12″.2 N, 97°07′41″.1 W    times of contact

At the Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory a 6-inch Cooke equatorial was bought for the occasion of the 1882 transit of Venus. For this instrument a dome was added to the building. The telescope was erected in November, just in time for the transit. The director of the observatory, Charles Carpmael, performed the observations. The observatory was located on the site where the Sandford Fleming Building now is. In 1908 the building was taken down and re-erected in front of Hart House, where it still is.
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Location: 43°39′36″.4 N, 79°23′42″.1 W    times of contact

The young ladies of the Ontario Ladies’ College at Whitby, Ontario, crowded out in numbers and had a splendid chance for witnessing the transit of Venus. It was shown to them by principal John James Hare, who set up a 6-inch telescope in the grounds of the college. Also engaged in the observation was Christopher Johnson.
Location: 43°52′42″.7 N, 78°55′58″.7 W    times of contact

From the observatory of Faraday Hall at Cobourg, Ontario, A.R. Bain observed the transit of Venus. Internal contact at egress was observed and the time taken, but the external contact was hidden by clouds. The illumination of the atmosphere of Venus after internal contact at egress was very distinct, and observed independently at the station by the three parties entrusted with the observations. The planet, when on the solar disc, appeared of a greenish-grey colour. No black drop was seen.
Location: 43°57′55″.9 N, 78°09′49″.5 W    times of contact

Victoria College

An 1878 picture of Victoria College and Faraday Hall in Cobourg, Canada. Victoria College still stands, but Faraday Hall has been demolished in 1909. (Picture courtesey of Cobourg Public Library)

The year before the transit, the Queen’s University Observatory in Kingston was transferred to a location just west of where Carruthers Hall now stands. James Williamson used the observatory’s 6½-inch Alvan Clark equatorial to observe the transit of Venus. The telescope is now on display in the lobby of Stirling Hall. The observatory was taken down in 1901.
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Location: 44°13′34″.7 N, 76°29′38″.3 W    times of contact

Queen′s University Observatory

Queen’s University Observatory next to Carruthers Hall.

On Nepean Point in Ottawa, Frank L. Blake had erected an observatory, consisting of a small tent, about twenty feet square, arranged in such a manner that the top could be thrown back, thus allowing free scope for the observations. Ingress and egress could be observed in between a snow storm with a 4-inch achromat on an altazimuth mounting.
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Location: 45°25′46″.3 N, 75°42′04″.8 W    times of contact

At the McGill Observatory in Montréal, Canada, three observing parties assembled to compare chronometers with the clock and went to their several stations. Alexander Johnson at the observatory projected the sun onto the wall of the observatory by means of the finder telescope, giving an image of about 4½ inches in diameter. The sun was hidden behind clouds until after the first two contacts, then it shone out shortly. Just after eleven the clouds came over again and continued the rest of the day. The snow coming on, the cap was put on the telescope and the shutter of its roof closed. The observatory was demolished in 1963 to make way for the Stephen Leacock building. A brass plaque commemorates the observatory. Two other stations were occupied by Mr. Chandler near to the reservoir in Parc Rutherford where a wooden hut had been erected, and by J.R. Murray on the balcony of the Arts Building.
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Location: 45°30′15″.7 N, 73°34′41″.1 W    times of contact

When the day broke on 1882 December 6, a heavy snow storm was raging in Québec. At Québec Observatory on the Plains of Abraham William Austin Ashe used a 20-cm Clark refractor to get a momentary glimpse of Venus. Only for a few minutes the sun’s disc became visible and even then the view was partially obscured by the light vapoury clouds passing across the sun’s face. Lieut. Andrew Gordon also took part in the observations. The observatory was torn down in 1936 and in 1987 a commemorative sundial was erected on the site.
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Location: 46°47′58″.3 N, 71°13′15″.1 W    times of contact

Cloudy weather interfered seriously with the observation of the 1882 transit of Venus by William Brydone Jack and John Babbit at the University of New Brunswick Observatory in Fredricton, Canada. They used a 6-inch Merz equatorial refractor, which was mounted in a small wooden octagonal dome. The observatory now houses a museum.
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Location: 45°56′53″.2 N, 66°38′26″.4 W    times of contact

The sky was obscured in Saint John, New Brunswick throughout the day, though about 3 o’clock a break in the clouds afforded occasional glimpses of the transit. The members of the Commons Council armed with opera glasses made several observations from the Court House, and Venus was plainly visible at times to the naked eye, as a small black sphere on the face of the sun.
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Location: 45°16’25″.3 N, 66°03′24″.8 W    times of contact


French astronomer Jean Jacques Anatole Bouquet de la Grye set up a station at Fort Loreto near the Mexican city of Puebla to observe the 1882 transit of Venus. The Mexican cavalry was stationed around the fort to keep curious people on a distance. Prior to the transit, his team trained with an artificial transit positioned about half a mile distant at Fort Guadelupe. On the day of the transit, all four contacts could be timed despite some cirrus clouds.
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Location: 19°03′28″.2 N, 98°11′13″.5 W    times of contact

Fort Marion near St Augustine, Florida was chosen by François Perrier to set up his station for observing the 1882 transit of Venus. The two equatorials of 8 and 6 inches and the photographic telescope were placed on the southern wall of the fort, and the transit instrument was located on the northern wall. On the day of the transit the weather was perfect: clear skies, no wind and only some distant clouds close to the horizon. All four contacts could be timed and about 200 photographs of the sun were taken. The expedition placed a commemorative white marble plaque above the door of the fort’s chapel. That plaque is now in storage at the National Park Service Archive in Jacksonville.
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Location: 29°53′52″.1 N, 81°18′41″.5 W    times of contact    streetview

Fort Marion in 1882

The sheds for the instruments at Fort Marion, St Augustine, December 1882. (Picture courtesy of Collection of the St. Augustine Historical Society)

A French party under direction of Octave de Bernardières went all the way to Chile. They chose a site somewhat removed from Santiago, in order not to double the observation of the National Observatory. They settled at a residence on the Cerro Negro, owned at that time by Valentin Marcoleta. It was located close to the town of San Bernardo, about 20 kilometers south of Santiago. All four contacts could be observed. A tombstone which was recently found in the parochial cemetery of San Bernardo mentioning the French expedition was lost during renovation works.
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Location: 33°36′51″.0 S, 70°40′32″.2 W    times of contact

For the international polar year, the French vessel Romanche under command of Captain Louis-Ferdinand Martial established a base at Orange Bay on the Hardy Peninsula near Cape Horn for observations on astronomy, meteorology, and magnetism, to survey the coast of Tierra del Fuego, and to make biological collections. The various prefabricated buildings housed a land party of 21. Lieutenant J.L. Courcelle-Seneuil made observations of the transit of Venus in clear weather. There is a flat sandstone slab, into which "Expédition Romanche 1882" is chiseled.
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Location: 55°31′19″.6 S, 68°05′41″.9 W    times of contact

Orange Bay, Chile

The French station at Orange Bay. In the middle, at a higher elevation, is the astronomical pavilion. (Picture taken from Louis-Ferdinand Martial, Mision al Cabo de Hornos (2005), courtesy of Sergio Zagier)

In October 1882 Félix Tisserand, accompanied by Guillaume Bigourdan, arrived at Martinique. They first explored the island to search for an observing spot and decided to erect their instruments at Fort Tartenson, not far from Fort-de-France.
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Location: 14°36′24″.8 N, 61°04′36″.7 W    times of contact

In 1882 the two brothers Paul-Pierre and Mathieu-Prosper Henri of the Paris Observatory were invited to set up a station on the summit of Pic du Midi de Bigorre to observe the transit of Venus. There, a new observatory had been constructed. However, because of the severe weather they were forced to install their station at the old Plantade observatory on the Col de Sencours, just 400 meters below the summit. On the day of the transit, the Sencours was wrapped in clouds and nothing could be seen. Learn more…
Location: 42°55′49″.8 N, 0°08′18″.5 E    times of contact

From an upper window of the Hôtel du Louvre et de la Paix at Marseille, Samuel Jenkins Johnson directed the only instrument at his disposal, a 2¼-inch telescope by Cooke, at the sun to observe the 1882 transit of Venus. He had obtained time from the observatory. Today, only the facade of the hotel has survived as part of a store.
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Location: 43°17′48″.6 N, 5°22′42″.6 E    times of contact

The director of the Observatoire de Marseille, Édouard Stephan, observed the 1882 transit of Venus with the 80-cm telescope, mounted in a dome in the grounds of the observatory on Plateau Longchamp. At first the sky was clear, but in the afternoon clouds started to obscure the sun. Only during ingress there was a momentary break in the clouds. Today, the actual dome is gone, but the telescope is still on display.
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Location: 43°18′21″.2 N, 5°23′41″.6 E    times of contact

Most of the buildings of the Observatoire de Nice still being under construction on the summit of Mont Gros, André Puiseux observed the 1882 transit of Venus from the building site by projecting the sun’s image. Also, a couple of photographs were made with a simple device, consisting of a wooden case attached to a 11-cm telescope. Other personnel of the observatory watched the transit elsewhere: director Henri Perrotin travelled to Patagonia, Argentina and Louis Thollon observed the transit from Avila, Spain.
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Location: 43°43′33″.2 N, 7°18′01″.1 E    times of contact


At the Observatoire Cantonal in Neuchâtel, Switserland, Adolph Hirsch at first planned to observe from the summit of the Chaumont, because the observatory at the lakeside usually experienced a lot of fog during winter. A storm however promised clear skies and Hirsch and his assistent decided to remain at the observatory to observe the 1882 transit of Venus. In spring 2007 the observatory was closed down.
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Location: 47°00′00″.2 N, 6°57′10″.4 E    times of contact


At Melbourne Observatory the morning started overcast, but about one hour after sunrise, the sun broke through the clouds and the last part of the transit could be seen. Robert Lewis John Ellery used the 8-inch equatorial and James E. Gilbert the 4½-inch Simms’ equatorial. A number of twenty-three good photographs of the transit were obtained.
Location: 37°49′45″.9 S, 144°58′31″.2 E    times of contact

In 1874 amateur astronomer Alfred Barrett Biggs assisted the American expedition with the observations of the transit of Venus in Campbelltown on Tasmania. About 1879 he had moved to Launceston on Tasmania, where he constructed an observatory in Royal Park to house his 2-inch and 3-inch refractors. From this observatory Biggs watched the 1882 transit of Venus. There is a marker commemorating Biggs, but the monument is somewhat to the east of the location of the former observatory.
Location: 41°26′18″.7 S, 147°07′54″.2 E    times of contact

New Zealand

From his home at 122 Park Terrace in Christchurch, James Townsend, together with Walter Kitson, observed with a 6-inch refractor by Cooke and Sons (operated by Kitson) and a smaller 3.375-inch Dallmeyer equatorial. In 1891 Townsend donated his large telescope to Canterbury College. The telescope was transferred to the observatory tower in the Christchurch Arts Centre on Hereford Street. The tower and the telescope were both destroyed in the 2011 earthquake, but as the objective was undamaged there are good hopes the telescope can be restored. The house of Townsend at Park Terrace was demolished in 1936 and replaced with another building.
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Location: 43°31′20″.5 S, 172°37′37″.2 E    times of contact

House of James Townsend in Christchurch

The house of James Townsend at Park Terrace, Christchurch. The house was demolished in 1936. (Picture from G.L. Clark, Rolleston Avenue and Park Terrace, 1979)

In 1882 Arthur Samuel Atkinson, a local lawyer and amateur astronomer at Nelson, New Zealand, was asked by the Royal Society of London to be an official observer of the transit of Venus. Assisted by his wife Jane Maria and his friend Maurice Richmond, he observed the transit from a small hut near his residence Fairfield House. He succesfully made his observations using a 4-inch Browning refractor and reported back to the Society.
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Location: 41°17′03″.0 S, 173°17′00″.2 E    times of contact

Arthur Atkinson at Nelson

Arthur Atkinson (standing), his wife and Maurice Richmond (seated at the left) in their observatory after the transit. (Picture courtesy of Harry Atkinson)

From the Colonial Time Service Observatory in the Botanical Garden in Wellington, New Zealand, Archdeacon Arthur Stock and Thomas King observed the 1882 transit of Venus. It was a time-service observatory pure and simple, and therefore structurally it was of but modest proportions, consisting merely of a transit-room and a clock-room. Both observers used 4-inch telescopes and each was assisted by two other men, one with a chronometer and the other to write down what was said by the observers. Two policemen were also stationed at the observatory to gain perfect quiet. In 1906 the observatory was demolished to allow Prime Minister Richard Seddon to be buried there. Richard John Seddon’s Memorial is now located on the observatory′s original site.
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Location: 41°16’46″.3 S, 174°46′18″.4 E    times of contact

Colonial Time Service Observatory

The Colonial Time Service Observatory at Wellington. The building stood on the edge of the Bolton Street cemetery.

In 1882 a temporary observatory was built on Mount Cook, Wellington, to prepare for the observation of the transit of Venus. It was located on a knoll in the southern part of Wellington. Charles William Adams performed the observations (noteworthy, Adams was the neighbour of James Townsend at Park Terrace in Christchurch). An image of the sun was projected on a screen by a 4-inch telescope, mounted on an ordinary stand and set up just outside the observatory’s door. Inside the building were a 3-inch transit instrument, two sidereal clocks and a chronograph, and a zenith telescope. The observatory was demolished shortly after the observations were made in 1883. In 1936 the Dominion Museum was built on the site, which is now part of the Wellington campus of Massey University.
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Location: 41°17′58″.6 S, 174°46′36″.2 E    times of contact

Thomas Cheeseman was an amateur astronomer who built his own telescopes. At his residence Maranui at Remuera he had an observatory fully fitted up and provided with revolving roof and shutters, presented to him in recognition of is valuable assistance, by the American astronomers who came out to New Zealand to observe the 1882 transit of Venus. Here, he observed the transit himself with a large reflecting telescope, together with his friends. His observations were not for scientific purposes, however. All of Cheeseman’s astronomical papers were trashed after his death in 1907. The house, which was at the site of 47 Benson Road, was demolished recently.
Location: 36°52′24″.0 S, 174°48′34″.6 E    times of contact

Maranui, Remuera

Thomas Cheeseman’s residence Maranui at Remuera. (Picture courtesey of Pip Grant-Taylor)

John Grigg had fitted up a temporary observatory in one of the rooms of his establishments in 719 Pollen Street, Thames. Here he had a furnishing business and a music store. The apparatus was provided by Mr. Grigg and adjusted accurately. Mr. Foy was in attendance to photograph the sun during the transit and the Rev. Mr. & Mrs. Neil recorded the time of the different occurrences by means of a seconds pendulum in the lower room.Learn more…
Location: 37°08′06″.3 S, 175°32′24″.5 E    times of contact


From his private wooden observatory, located on a flat roof of his residence Millbrook House in Milltown, Galway, astronomer John Birmingham observed the transit of Venus up to sunset in a cloudless sky. He probably used his 4½-inch Cooke refracting telescope, which is now on display at the Millbrook Community Museum. The contact observations however had little value due to the atmospheric disturbance. The house is now in a ruinous state on the Milltown-Dunmore Road.
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Location: 53°37′20″.6 N, 8°53′33″.6 W    times of contact

Millbrook House

The remnants of Millbrook House in Milltown, Galway. (Picture by Andy Newman, Tuam)

At Crawford Observatory in Cork, Ireland, professor J. England observed the 1882 transit with the 8-inch Grubb refractor, furnished with a polarising eye-piece. Under a clear blue cloudless sky he timed internal contact at ingress. The observatory was chiefly intended for educational purposes. So, when the planet was fairly on the disk of the sun, England showed the transit to over one hundred students by projecting the sun’s image on a piece of paper.
Location: 51°53′33″.2 N, 8°29′31″.5 W    times of contact

At the private Markree Castle Observatory near Sligo, Ireland, William Doberck turned the large 25-inch refractor, stopped down to five inches, to the sun to observe the 1882 transit of Venus. The telescope was equatorialy mounted on a pyramid of black marble blocks and there was no dome or roof over the circular wall. Fortunately, Doberck had good clear conditions. Today, only the circular wall of the observatory is still there. The objective of the telescope is now stored in the basement of Manila Observatory.
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Location: 54°10′30″.7 N, 8°27′27″.1 W    times of contact

Next to Daramona House near Cornacausk, Ireland, William Edward Wilson had built an observatory. In 1882 he observed the transit of Venus with his new 24-inch reflector, stopped down to 12 inches. The sky was cloudless all day. In the morning, before ingress, Wilson tried to spot a Venusian satellite, but none was found. In the afternoon, after ingress, he looked without success for absorption lines from the atmosphere of Venus using a visual spectroscope. Today, the dome of the out of use observatory has been removed and the building is in a ruinous condition.
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Location: 53°41′14″.2 N, 7°29′33″.9 W    times of contact

From the observatory of Lawrence Parsons, earl of Rosse, at Birr Castle the transit of Venus was observed with the 3-foot reflector by projecting an enlarged image on a screen. It was seen occasionally between the clouds, but at the moments of contact, the sun was invisible.
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Location: 53°05′42″.1 N, 7°54′52″.2 W    times of contact

In 1882 a snowstorm bothered Robert Stawell Ball when he tried to observe the transit of Venus from Dunsink Observatory, just outside Dublin. At length the clouds dispered and Ball got a short glimpse of Venus on the low sun. “Still, to have seen even a part of a transit of Venus,” Ball wrote, “is an event to remember for a lifetime, and we felt more delight than can be easily expressed at even this slight gleam of success.” Learn more…
Location: 53°23′14″.5 N, 6°20′19″.6 W    times of contact


In 1882 a Danish expedition led by Carl Frederick Pechüle headed for the Caribbean to observe the transit of Venus. First, they planned to erect a station on the island of St. Thomas, but as a Brazilian expedition was allready stationed there, the Danish choose the island of St. Croix as their destination. They could use the observatory of Andrew Lang, but this was inaccessible because of heavy roads. Therefore, Pechüle installed his observating station close to the estate Bülowsminde.
Location: 17°44′23″.7 N, 64°43′38″.7 W    times of contact


From his summer residence in San Bernardo at Calle Urmeneta 560, Don Diego Barros Arana observed the transit of Venus with professor of mathemetics and close friend Alejandro Andonaegui. With an equatorial of 11 centimeters aperture, they observed ingress and timed interior contact with an excellent chronometer.
Location: 33°34′46″.4 S, 70°42′08″.4 W    times of contact

From the Observatorio Nacional at Quinta Normal Park in Santiago, Chile, director José Ignacio Vergara observed the transit of Venus with the 25-cm telescope, which had just been mounted, and the meridian circle. His son, Luis A. Vergara, observed with the 11-cm equatorial and engineer assistant Luis Grosch observed with the 18-cm telescope. The day of the transit was perfectly clear and the times of the two interior contacts and of the last contact could be secured. Today, the old observatory houses the Escuela Tecnica Aeronautica.
Location: 33°26′40″.5 S, 70°40′57″.7 W    times of contact


Just outside Punta Arenas, Chile, the Brazilian expedition led by Luis Cruls set up wooden huts for their intruments. On the day of the transit, all four contacts could be timed under good circumstances. Independent observations were carried out by captain Luiz Philippe de Saldanha da Gama of the frigate Parnahyba at Quartermaster Island, but due to poor weather these observations failed.
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Location: 53°10′03″.7 S, 70°55′00″.1 W    times of contact

Brazilian station, Punta Arenas

The observing huts of the Brazilian expedition, just outside Punta Arenas

A Brazilian party, led by Antonio Luis von Hoonholtz, Baron de Teffé, set up an observatory on Ma Folie on St. Thomas. It consisted of three wooden huts. Ingress couldn’t be observed because of clouds and rain, but the other two contacts could be timed. Today, on the terrace of a private residence, the pillar for the collimator still stands and a commemorating plaque has been put up.
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Location: 18°21′02″.8 N, 64°55′44″.4 W    times of contact

Collimator pillar, St. Thomas

The collimator pillar at Ma Folie on St. Thomas. A plaque commemorates the observation of the Brazilian party. (Picture by Jacqueline Mitton, © Jacqueline Mitton, Total Astronomy Ltd, 2008)

Brazilian astronomer Julião de Oliveira Lacaille was in charge of an expedition to Olinda, Brazil to observe the 1882 transit of Venus. In front of the cathedral, with a privileged view over the entire old town, he set up his instruments in prefabricated observatories. On the day of the transit, he didn’t notice anything like a black drop effect at both interior contacts. There is an obelisk with a plate commemorating the observation of the transit of Venus.
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Location: 8°00′48″.9 S, 34°50′59″.2 W    times of contact

Obelisk with commemorative plates, Olinda

The obelisk with plates commemorating the 1882 observation (top) as well as the 2004 observation (bottom).


The astronomical and meteorological observatory at Zacatecas, Mexico was inaugurated on the day of the 1882 transit of Venus. The director of the new observatory, José Árbol y Bonilla, observed the phenomenon with a magnificent equatorial. Because of intervening clouds, only the internal contact at ingress could be timed.
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Location: 22°46′43″.7 N, 102°34′02″.1 W    times of contact

From the observatory in Mexico City, located at the Castillio de Chapultepec, director Angel Anguiano observed the 1882 transit of Venus with a 32-cm refractor. Unfortunately, the skies were cloudy in Mexico City and only ingress could be observed.
Location: 19°25′14″.1 N, 99°10′53″.1 W    times of contact

From the observatory of the Colegio Católico del Sagrado Corazón in Puebla, Mexico, Jesuit Father Pedro Spina observed the 1882 transit of Venus. The observatory was situated on the upper floor and roof of the college. An equarotially mounted telescope of 11.6 cm aperture, acquired in 1882, was installed in a circular room of 3.2 m diameter with a rotating dome. Today, the former Jesuit college at 11 Sur 1102 houses a primary school.
Location: 19°02′38″.7 N, 98°12′30″.5 W    times of contact


In 1882 the director of the observatory of the Real Colegio de Belén in Havanna, Benito Viñes Martorell, travelled to Europe to buy new equipment for the observatory. The observatory was located on he roof of the college. A new Cooke equatorial telescope of 15 cm aperture was later installed, with which he observed the transit of Venus the same year.
Location: 23°07′57″.7 N, 82°21′11″.3 W    times of contact


A Spanish expedition led by Tómas de Azcárate set up an equatorial telescope and a transit instrument in the Arsenal of San Juan in Puerto Rico. De Azcárate was assisted by José de Ibarra. They observed all contacts exept for the external contact at egress, because they had to change the eye-piece at the very moment.
Location: 18°27′45″.9 N, 66°06′56″.0 W    times of contact


Just outside Lisbon, at the Observatório da Tapada da Ajuda, its director Fredrico Augusto Oom observed the 1882 transit of Venus. He was accompanied by astronomers Alves do Rio and Campos Rodrigues.
Location: 38°42′37″.9 N, 9°11′14″.8 W    times of contact

At the astronomical observatory of the University of Coimbra Francisco da Costa Pessoa, interim assistant, and Francisco António de Miranda, observatory guard and mechanic, observed the 1882 transit of Venus. Only ingress was visible from Coimbra and the weather was very cloudy. With the 4-inch telescope by Troughton and Simms Pessoa observed first and second contact. Miranda, observing with the 5.85-inch equatorial only timed second contact. The observatory, built in 1799, was used until 1951, when it moved to Alto de Santa Clara. The old building was demolished afterwards.
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Location: 40°12′25″.6 N, 8°25′33″.6 W    times of contact

Observatories at Olinda, Brazil

Coimbra Observatory building on the University’s Patio das Escolas. (1865 engraving courtesy of Vitor Bonifácio)


From the observatory tower of the Osservatario di Moncalieri father Francesco Denza observed the 1874 transit of Venus with a 4-inch Merz refractor, carefully following the instructions published by Simon Newcomb. Although the observatory at the Real Collegio was already founded in 1859, the tower was only constructed in 1877. The observatory is still in use today as a meteorological station.
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Location: 45°00′00″.0 N, 7°41′03″.8 E    times of contact

At the Osservatorio di Brera in Milan a low sun and a turbulent atmosphere caused a heavy boiling solar image during the observation of the 1882 transit of Venus. Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, together with two other observers, used telescopes by Short, Dollond and Ramsden.
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Location: 45°28′17″.5 N, 9°11′21″.2 E    times of contact

Italian astronomer Pietro Tacchini observed the 1882 transit of Venus from the Royal Observatory at the Collegio Romano in Rome. The observatory’s new domes were located on the roof of the adjacent church of St. Ignazio. Tacchini made spectrocopic observations with a 25-cm Merz equatorial.
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Location: 41°53′55″.7 N, 12°28′47″.7 E    times of contact

Osservatorio del Collegio Romano

The domes of the Royal Observatory at the Collegio Romano on top of the church of St. Ignazio viewed from the Torre Calandrelli, the old observatory tower.

At the Osservatorio di Palermo astronomer Gaetano Cacciatore had planned to obtain the times of contact by traditional observation and by spectroscopic methods. The latter method was typical of Italian observations. All went well, though the black drop still made it difficult to define the moment of internal contact.
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Location: 38°06′41″.4 N, 13°21′11″.8 E    times of contact

At the observatory of Capodimonte near Naples, chief astronomer Arminio Nobile, assisted by Francesco Contarino and Filippo Angelitti, observed the 1882 transit of Venus. Nobile noticed that, when Venus was on the solar disc, its colour wasn′t uniform and its limb wasn’t well defined, but variable instead.
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Location: 40°51’48″.6 N, 14°15′19″.8 E    times of contact


On the Hill of the Nymphs near Athens, at the National Observatory, its director Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt observed the 1882 transit of Venus. On the terrace of the observatery he set up a five feet refractor and a two feet solar telescope, which was used by his assistant Alexander Wurlisch. Another observer of the observatory, Demetrius Kokkidis, observed with a six feet refractor at the dome.
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Location: 37°58′24″.2 N, 23°43′05″.8 E    times of contact

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  1. Pingback: 5 de Junio de 2012: Tránsito de Venus - Planetario Humboldt