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L.A. Marschall, G.A. Snyder (Gettysburg College), J.J. Sudol (Denison University), C. Toner (National Solar Observatory), P.R. Cooper (Gettysburg College)
During the 18th and 19th Centuries, observations of rare transits of Venus provided one of the few methods to measure the solar parallax and determine the scale of the solar system. At Venus transits in 1761, 1769, 1874, and 1882, nations mounted costly expeditions to determine the path of Venus across the sun from vantage points around the world. Though these methods have been superseded, modern chronometry and digital imaging technology makes it possible to use transits to measure the distance to the sun more conveniently and precisely than in previous centuries. Project CLEA's new transit exercise provides students with a series of high-quality images of the June 8, 2004, transit of the sun obtained from three telescopes of the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) at different latitudes. Software enables students to view the images as an animated sequence, plot the track of the Venus across the sun as seen from each site, determine the angular parallax between tracks as a function of the baseline between each pair of sites, and determine the length of the Astronomical Unit to a precision of 2% or better. A similar set of images of the transit of Mercury of May 7, 2003 is also provided, though the precision achievable for these data is only about 20 Software and a full student manual will be available on line and at Project CLEA's display booth at the meeting.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.